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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Philippians 2

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-4

Verses 1-13

Philippians 2:1-13

If there be therefore any consolation in Christ

Christian unity

I.
The doctrine of Christian unity.

1. This unity is inward and consists of harmonious spiritual feeling.

(a) Agreement of view.

(b) Accord in purpose.

(c) Mutual love.

2. It is also outward and visible.

II. The causes of divisions. The spirit of vain-glory, self-preference, self-interest. It was from envy the brethren of Joseph hated him. The same was at the root of Absalom’s and Adonijah’s rebellion. This was rebuked by Christ when He set a little child in the midst of His contentious disciples. We are not willing to admit this as the cause in our own case. We persuade ourselves that real grievances are the cause, and that conscience is prompting us to be valiant for the truth. But these considerations, when genuine, would indeed lead to plainness of speech, but would, in their end and aim, promote rather than retard brotherly love and union. Grievances are only occasions for forbearance.

III. The remedy. “The mind that was in Christ Jesus.” His humble, self-emptying spirit. The spirit, then, of humiliation which will not stand upon claims and rights, but readily concede them, is that which will check disunion and promote unity. Conclusion:

1. Make this a means of trying your own spirits.

2. Do we wish to learn this necessary disposition?

3. Without this vain is our profession of vital Christianity. (E. Meade, M. A.)

The excellence of Christian unity

1. Does Christian unity consist in the union of Christians in one corporate, visible organization? It should do, and one day will do.

2. But even this desirable object by itself would not secure true unity. It would be but a body without life--the unity of the church yard.

3. The only true unity is that of the text, one of soul and brotherly affection.

I. Look at its excellence. It gives peace; promotes strength and usefulness; commands attention and imitation.

1. Notice the individual man. The soul is a little kingdom. In it there dwell a variety of faculties; there are fears, hopes, likes, dislikes; appetites to urge and principles to check; self-will to prompt, self-interest to restrain; passions to hurry away, conscience to control, etc. When these are in discord what a “troubled sea” there is. But when the Spirit of God is received and obeyed, what a blessed harmony is the result--“a peace that passeth under standing.”

2. Take the family. Let love reign there, sustained and cherished by mutual forbearance in the fear of God, parents honoured, sons and daughters kind and helpful, and how the power and usefulness of the family are increased. It is not to have many hands at a rope which will pull the weight, but all moved by the same impulse and pulling together.

3. Suppose the same to prevail in a parish. Why should it not? It was so once at Jerusalem, and would now as then (Acts 2:46-47) result in personal happiness and numerous conversions.

4. If the same obtained throughout the world the effect would be irresistible.

II. The evils of disunion and division.

1. It is a proof of being unspiritual and carnal, as it was in the case of the Corinthians, and in some cases of being unconverted. How dwelleth the love of God in the fomenters of strife and discord.

2. It is a hindrance to grace, comfort, and usefulness.

3. It is a stumbling block to the world. (E. Meade, M. A.)

Love promotes unity

He found an inexpressibly sweet love to those that he looked upon as belonging to Christ, beyond almost all that he ever felt before, so that (to use his own words) “it seemed like a piece of heaven to have one of them near him.” (Life of Brainerd.)

How unity is obtained

When the tide is out you may have noticed, as you rambled among the rocks, little pools with little fishes in them. To the shrimp, in such a pool, his foot depth of salt water is all the ocean for the time being. He has no dealings with his neighbour shrimp in the adjacent pool, though it may be only a few inches of sand that divide them; but when the rising ocean begins to lip over the margin of the lurking place, one pool joins another, their various tenants meet, and by-and-by, in place of their little patch of standing water, they have the ocean’s boundless fields to roam in. When the tide is out--when religion is low--the faithful are to be found insulated, here a few and there a few, in the little standing pools that stud the beach, having no dealings with their neighbours of the adjoining pools, calling them Samaritans, and fancying that their own little communion includes all that are precious in God’s sight. They forget, for a time, that there is a vast and expansive ocean rising--every ripple brings it nearer--a mightier communion, even the communion of saints, which is to engulf all minor considerations, and to enable the fishes of all pools--the Christians--the Christians of all denominations--to come together. When, like a flood, the Spirit flows into the Churches, Church will join to Church, and saint will join to saint, and all will rejoice to find that if their little pools have perished, it is not by the scorching summer’s drought, nor the casting in of earthly rubbish, but by the influx of that boundless sea whose glad waters touch eternity, and in whose ample depths the saints in heaven, as well as the saints on earth, have room enough to range. (Dr. Hamilton.)

The Christian doctrine of self

I. The adjuration (Philippians 2:1).

1. The strength of the appeal lies in the completeness of its expressions.

2. Here follows another pair of appeals, but now the Holy Spirit is the strength of the invocation.

3. Thus the apostle’s joy would be fulfilled. He was already happy in their devotion and in the fruits of their fellowship. But he had heard of the risings of a fatal spirit among them. His joy could not reach its consummation without their united and persevering devotion.

II. The exhortation.

1. In its unity. Here we have self-love in the great uniting object of Christ’s kingdom, subordinate in humility to the honour of others, and losing its essential selfishness in the perpetual combination of the advantage of others with its own. These three are one. Self-renunciation is the secret of unity in the Church, of humility in the individual, and of charity in all the relations of life.

2. In its divisions.

(a) Negatively. They are to avoid the conduct he condemns at Rome--strife was to be kept out of their community and vanity out of their character. A mind clothed with humility cannot desire preeminence, and cannot, therefore, contend against others to bring them down, or seek vain self-elevation for its own sake.

(b) Positively. In the exercise of humility they were to regard not that every one’s moral character was better than their own, but that others were mars worthy of distinction in the Church. “In honour preferring one another.”

Christian concord

1. The “therefore” connects the passage with the “conversation worthy of the gospel.”

2. The central precept is in Philippians 2:2 --“That ye be like minded,” which suggests the subject of the whole.

I. The constituent element of Christian concord.

1. Mutual and all-pervading love--“Having the same love.” All true Christians have this in some measure. Among the members of a congregation it should be peculiarly strong. To its prevalence will correspond congregational life and health. Frequent and close intercourse in a large city church is impossible--all the more necessary, therefore, to combine in the various schemes of Christian effort. One of the most valuable results of Sabbath Schools, Dorcas Societies, etc., is the formation of Christian friendship.

2. Union or accord of souls minding the same thing--the basis of Christian concord--oneness of view in respect to all matters of vital moment. Having this oneness of view Christians will also in the degree in which they yield up their hearts to the common faith have a substantial oneness of disposition and resolution. The “one thing” is--

3. Mutual helpfulness. Christian love cannot flourish apart from Christian energy. A monastery is a hot bed of jealousy and discord, and the more closely a denomination or Church approaches this character in inactivity and uselessness, the more open it will be to dissensions.

II. Its motive.

1. The fulfilment of the apostle’s joy. Each reference to their possible religious experience is like a rod of Divine power calling out a stream of sympathy and affection.

2. If Paul’s joy was augmented by the union of the Philippians, much more will Christ’s joy be fulfilled by the answer to His prayer “that they all may be one.” It is only the dissentions of the Church that postpones this blessed consummation.

III. The sources of discord and the means of drying them up.

1. The great causes of dissention in any society are here indicated.

2. These evils are only to be removed by the cultivation of the opposite virtues of humility, which is an exclusively Christian grace.

3. This is not meanness of spirit. While it recognizes facts as they are in, human nature, it involves a profound respect for man’s possible self.

4. This lowliness of mind leads each to esteem others better than self (Romans 12:10; Ephesians 5:21; 1 Peter 5:5). This does not imply blindness to one’s own ability and attainments, or to the deficiencies of others; but a humble view of self will inspire to help others to fill their place of usefulness--“to please them for their good to edification.”

5. It will also lead every man to look not on his own things, and to cherish a spirit of unselfishness in regard to others. (R. Johnstone, LL. B.)

Christian unity

I. Its spirit--Christian, kind, brotherly, compassionate.

II. Its practice--Peaceable, humble, unselfish. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Paul’s appeal

1. The “if” is not here the sign of doubt or hesitation, but rather of assured certainty. When persons wish to disclose the vastness of an assembly, they sometimes say, “If there was one present, there were two thousand.” As employed by Paul it is equivalent to “If there is any water in the sea, or any light in the sun.”

2. Consolation, comfort of love, etc., signify much in common. This appeal is a burst of tenderness. Affection delights in repetition. Love amplifies its expressions to the utmost; it is the effort of an eloquent rhetorician, artless, yet full of art. There are expressions full of summer light and beauty which are only revealed to the heart.

3. Paul having laid his basis in the very heart of Christ, makes an appeal--“fulfil ye my joy.” It is right to interject one’s personality as an element in an argument for brotherhood and consolidation in the Church. It appears an infinite descent from Christ to Paul, but, in reality, it is no descent; in this argument Christ’s purpose and Paul’s desire are identical. The soul has moods which bring it close to the heart of God. Paul appears before the Philippians more as saint than logician, and in that capacity Christ and the “servant” are one. The apostle likens his joy to a cup that is nearly full, and intimates that unanimity in the Church would fill it perfectly--make it overflow. See the importance even of a single element. An atom may be necessary to perfection. Beauty may depend on the straightness or curve of a single line. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The apostle’s appeal

I. The manner of the apostle’s exhortation. He exhorteth them to be like minded, having their affections (Romans 12:16), likings, and desires so set on the same things as to fulfil his joy. “I joy in your fellowship in the gospel,” etc. (chap. 1:5-7), yet my joy is not full so long as I hear of your contentions.

1. “If there be any consolation in Christ.”

2. “If there be any comfort of love.” The ground of which argument is that if they loved him as he loved them, and desired his comfort as he did theirs, then they would fulfil his joy. To yield to the holy desires of one another is an effectual token of Christian love towards one another (John 14:15; Phlippians 1:17). Men are ready enough to yield to wicked enticings (Proverbs 1:10-12).

3. “If there be any fellowship of the Spirit,” i.e., “if ye be knit together in the bond of one Spirit, and have fellowship as members of one body, under one head, fulfil ye my joy.” The ground of this argument is, that men knit together are to give proof thereof by concord. What proof of this many give, let their contentions and divisions witness.

4. “If any compassion and mercy.” The ground of which argument is that in mercy and compassion to him, the Lord’s prisoner for their sake, they should fulfil his joy in being like minded. The godly requests of God’s saints afflicted for Christ’s sake should move in us such compassion as that we should gladly hearken and yield to them.

II. The matter. Observe--

1. The godly pastor’s joy is to be in his people, whatever his own case may be.

2. That that joy is not full as long as there is anything amiss amongst his people.

3. That he should be admonished to labour that nothing be amiss either touching doctrine or practice, so that his joy may be full. That there was something amiss here is proved by the exhortation; whence learn--

There they are perfected.

1. He exhorteth them to be “like minded” (Romans 12:16), having their affections, likings, desires, set on the same things (1 Corinthians 1:10; Romans 15:5). Are not Jews, Turks, Pharisees, etc., like minded? The necessity of this is seen--

2. “Having the same love.” This is how we may be like minded. Love--

3. “One accord”--agreeing in our wills that unity and concord may be maintained (Psalms 7:18; Psalms 133:1; Acts 4:32).

4. “One mind,” or judgment. (H. Airay, D. D.)

Mutual harmony

We hear a great deal about the harmony of the spheres. That is poetry, but let us try and translate that poetry into practice. It is a painful thing to take up a newspaper now-a-days! Every one seems to be fighting, abroad and at home. There is too much bitter controversy. We want to realize that if there is a mutual work to be done and faith to do it, there must be mutual love to supply the fire.

I. The first way I want to approach this text is--along the line of variety. “Being of one accord “does not always mean being of the same opinion. Of course, in the main there can be no good work done unless the great verities are believed in by us all. You have to live in harmony; your very nature is to be harmonious within you. You may be a very inharmonious man in yourself. You may be affectionate. Yes! but there is no courage in you. We have all got to contribute something to the harmony. I do not want, in a choir of musicians, all to play the violin; I should not like to listen to a band of flutes. To be all of one accord does not mean all doing the same thing or playing the same instrument. One man has his special gift. But in all this variety there is harmony; and is not that one of the most beautiful things in the world. The worst of it is that one bad musician can spoil a choir. One cantankerous person in the household can upset everything. One may injure many! Now variety is intended by God. There are men emphatically endowed by special gifts for mission work; some have tender sympathies and they can be friends to the fatherless and widow; some have gifts for calling out the energies of the young. But there must be harmony in all the variety--“being of one accord.

II. There must be in this one accord subordinancy of one to the other. Everything must be subservient to great ends. There must always be the Chorus Leader. What we want is the harmony of true, beautiful, religious charity. By subserviency I mean everything uniting for Christ’s ends.

III. In this harmony there is health. If I have no pare in my hand or foot, but if I have a headache--what then? Where is the harmony within me? When the blood flows healthily, the eye is clear, the step elastic, the brain vigorous, the appetite sharp and good, and the sleep is restful--all is well! But if one of the members gets out of order, it is all misery. The head looks at the foot and says, “Why don’t you get better?” but by-and-by the head is all right, and the foot suffers too. The members are not of one accord. You may lift that thought up into the highest regions of all, and you may realize that if there is to be accord and harmony amongst men in the Church we must all take care of one another, it will not do to neglect anybody. You must look out and take care of the humblest member as well as the highest. It is so in a nation. A nation is in harmony when the rich sympathize with and help the poor, and the wise help the ignorant. A prosperous Church or nation is where there is health in the body politic.

IV. We shall thus enjoy influence. The world likes harmony; it does not know how it is attuned; but it likes it. I have seen in a picture gallery a poor fellow who comes in a sort of semi-fustian; he is no connoisseur, but there was harmony he could detect, and he liked it.

V. It means heaven! Rest in God. We have the mind of Christ. And that is heaven begun on earth. There is no harmony in a piano of itself. The mind makes the harmony. I cannot make harmony out of the piano; it is produced by the spirit that comes through the fingers. “Being of one accord.” Yes! one mind. We must be moulded after the mind of Christ. You may have a violin, flute, piano, and harp, but you must have one chord. “Being of one accord.” Oh, what a heaven it will be where we shall have our different mental calibre, for we shall not all be exactly alike. “One star differeth from another in glory,” and, in proportion as you realize that idea, you realize the harmony of heaven. (W. M. Statham.)

Christian union--strength

The King of the Lacedaemonians being once asked why it was that Sparta was not surrounded by walls, is said to have pointed to the citizens, all filled with one and the same enthusiasm--one united band--and to have answered, “These are the walls of the Spartan State. With these, thus separate and yet one, all enemies can be repelled.” So is it with the city of God, Christ’s own Church. Its citizens, when they are of one mind and heart, are its unassailable bulwarks. The gates of hell cannot prevail against it. Thus, when warfare is over and victory is won, in the city of Peace, where no bulwarks can ever be needed, those who have overcome will join in--“The undisturbed song of pure consent, Aye sung before the sapphire-coloured throne.” (J. Hutchinson, D. D.)

Christian union how obtained

Those whose inmost hearts, warmed and expanded by the love of Christ, are welded together, as the glowing iron from the furnace, being softened and rendered adhesive by the heat, and so are joined in love spiritual, as the different members of the same body are joined in the union of nature--these hold the same love, these love as brethren; and there is no tie so close, so firm, and so enduring. Every other union is cemented by the cement of earth, but this by the true attraction of cohesion which is from heaven. (E. Meade, M. A.)

Shoulder to shoulder

“Now then, Highlanders, shoulder to shoulder!” was the cheery and inspiriting word of command that rang out above the roar of battle, as a gallant soldier led his Scotchmen to the charge; and every man, not for himself, but for England, rushed forward as with only “one shoulder” in the regiment, and with the irresistible might of their courage and their valour, swept the broken ranks of their defeated foes before them. Oh! let us hear the voice of our great Captain ringing across this world’s great battlefield, and summoning us to give up our petty jealousies and our miserable little differences. “Soldiers of the Cross, shoulder to shoulder!”--against all the evil, all the falseness, all the baseness, all the meanness, all the impurity, all the pride, all the folly, all the mighty army of sin that the Prince of Darkness has set in battle array against us. (T. T. Shore.)

Consolation in Christ

1. The language of man has received a new coinage of words since his perfection in Eden. Adam could scarce have understood the word consolation, because he did not understand the word sorrow. He soon needed it, but did not find it like the first promise which spake of Christ. And consolation can be found nowhere but in Him.

2. The Holy Spirit is revealed to us as the Comforter, and it is His business to console; but Christ is the consolation.

I. Christ in his varied positions is a consolation for the divers ills of the people of God. “All His paths drop fatness,” etc.

1. There are times when we look on the past with deepest grief, with fond regrets for the lost Paradise. To meet this, consider Christ in old eternity, as the covenant Head, stipulating to redeem thee; and think of the anticipating mercies of God.

2. If your minds dwell in sadness on the fact that you are absent from the Lord, think of the great truth that Christ of old had delights with the sons of men, and delights to have fellowship with them now. Remember that he appeared to Abraham in the plains of Mamre, to Jacob at the brook Jabbok, to Joshua as Captain of the Lord’s host, to the three Hebrew children, and so today.

3. Pursue the Master’s footsteps as He comes out of the invisible glory and wears the visible garment of humanity. You are tried and troubled, but what better consolation can you have than that Christ is one with you in your nature and suffered all that you are now suffering.

4. Follow Him to the grave. You, through fear of death are all your lifetime subject to bondage, but surely you may find an easy couch where your master slept. But this consolation is as naught compared with that derived from His resurrection. Be not faithless, but believing.

5. See Him ascending to His glory, and anticipate the joy you will have in His triumph. He went as your representative.

6. Behold Him, the great High Priest, the advocate with the Father; and sending down consolations upon His people.

7. But He shall come again as King and complete his ministry of consolation for body as well as for soul.

II. Christ in His unchanging nature a consolation for our continual sorrows.

1. He is a surpassing consolation. Talk about the consolations of philosophy; the charms of music; the comfort of friendship; the joys of hope; we have all these and others in superabundance in Him.

2. His consolations are unfailing. All other wells are dry; but this flows in an unceasing stream.

3. His consolations are everlasting; in youth, manhood, old age, in the prospect of death and eternity.

4. They are always within a believer’s reach, “a very present help in time of trouble.” You may always cheer your heart with Him, when all other things are far away.

III. Is Christ an available consolation for me?

1. Not if you are a self-sufficient moralist trusting in your own righteousness. You are trusting in a lie, and Christ will never be friends with a lie.

2. Not if you are a backslider, unless you return, to which Christ invites you.

3. Yes! if you are a penitent, obedient believer. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Consolation in Christ

I. I ask the young convert if there be any consolation in Christ. “Why there is no consolation without Him,” they reply. When anguish took hold of us because of God’s judgments we knew not whither to flee. We tried to stifle fear and silence conscience, but our misery increased. We then tried to soothe conscience by reformation, but we found no comfort. We resorted to the means of grace and called upon God, but the answer was, “Cursed is every one that continueth not,” etc. Then almost in despair Jesus appeared to us, the burden was removed, and we were made happy.

II. I appeal to the active Christian. He responds, “Yes: His yoke is easy,” etc. All our ability to perform duty, and all our acceptance of it, are from Him, and we glory in Him as our righteousness and strength.”

III. The afflicted Christian responds, “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed.” My afflictions have been my greatest blessings. I have had the example of Christ before me, His patience with me, His everlasting arms underneath me. His word or His smile have either removed my afflictions or inspired me with fortitude and joy to bear them.

IV. The dying Christian will reply that he has only a desire to depart, and that while passing through the valley Christ’s rod and staff are his comfort.

V. The glorified saints ascribe everything to Him that brought them out of great tribulation.

VI. What do You say? “There may be consolation in Christ, but I can say nothing of it from experience. I could never see any such excellence in Him as to induce me to give up my present enjoyment.” But the day will come when you would give all the world for one smile of the consolation of Israel. Inferences: From what has been said--

1. We should thank God for His unspeakable gift.

2. We see what enemies they are to themselves who are enemies to Christ.

3. How greatly they mistake who represent religion as gloomy.

4. Let your lives declare this consolation.

5. If there be such consolation here, what must heaven be? (S. Lavington.)

The tender sympathy of Christ

St. Yoo, of Kernartin, one morning went out and saw a beggar asleep on his doorstep. The beggar had been all night in the cold. The next night St. Yoo compelled this beggar to come into the house and sleep in the saint’s bed, while St. Yoo passed the night on the doorstep in the cold. Somebody asked him why that eccentricity? He replied, “It isn’t an eccentricity; I want to know how the poor suffer, I want to know their agonies, that I may sympathize with them, and therefore I slept on this cold step last night.” That is the way Christ knows so much about our sorrows. (Talmage.)

Any comfort of love--

A communion discourse

1. The comfort of love--when love is mutual--no one questions. The dependent child, in the arms of the loving mother, experiences it. There is no comfort in selfishness, indifference, and hate.

2. As over against all the reasonings of the enemies of Christianity, there stands out in bold relief this unanswerable fact, that Christ comes with comfort--the com fort of love--to a world full of suffering. The mission of our Saviour, as put by Isaiah (Isaiah 41:2), is to “comfort all that mourn” (Luke 4:18). As light to the eye, as food and water to the body, more than as medicine to the sick, is this Divine comfort of love to a world full of broken hearts.

3. Stoicism, born before the story of the manger was told, teaching indifference alike to pain and pleasure, illustrates the highest achievement of human wisdom; but it offers no comfort to a suffering world.

4. The Lord’s Supper is an object lesson--the culminating expression of God’s comforting love.

5. Standing by the cross, we grasp the full measure of God’s comforting love.

6. It is not strange that men with honest love have struggled to compass this mystery, but it is strange that men should have converted that which is the comfort of love into a battlefield. (J. G. Butler, D. D.)

The emotional in Christianity

Notice--

I. How emotional life has been stifled. At one time men have been bound by monotonous rituals and artificial formularies, and at another period by rigid theological statements, the result of anatomical analysis--a paring and cutting which takes the life and leaves the letter. Real religion is full of emotion. Bead the Psalms and see how they abound in it.

II. The perversion of emotion is also destructive of the soul’s true life. This is seen where self is made the sole object of thought. The bitterest torment is the torment of self. The word miser, for example, means “miserable.”

III. Turn from these to the true function of emotion--“the comfort of love.”

1. Love is a comfort in the discoveries it makes of the new possibilities of the soul. Think of the grace of tears! I have seen a man who had been elbowing his way through life amid its rough and selfish oppositions, hammering his heart hard, as it were, lest it by softening should become weak. Such a man, made callous by contact with an unsympathetic world, I have seen stand by the coffin of his child. His stony heart broke, and he was glad to weep. The bondage of the hard, real world was sundered, its barriers dissolved, and he recognized that the long-hidden power to feel was not destroyed.

2. Love is a comfort, inasmuch as it is restful and quiet. Ambition, anger, and jealousy bring pain. These are costly indulgences, for they cause sleeplessness and rob one of strength. But there is comfort in love. The mother bears her babe on her breast, and cradles it in her soul. She pastures her eyes in its face, and its beautiful smile is a reflection of the serene and joyful sense of possession which she herself feels. O the luxury of that love! If in a palace, its gilded wealth is but tinsel in the atmosphere of such love. Love beautifies the deformed body and withered features. More than that, it trusts against hope. A bridge was begun in California, over a quagmire. Piles were driven and earth was brought, but every effort failed, till finally a simple platform of boards was constructed, on which yielding support people were floated across. So love, with its strong, instinctive trust, floats across chasms that mere reason can never bridge.

3. There is comfort in love, because it harmonizes everything. What a world this would be if love reigned! There would be none to chafe and crowd and irritate. What oil does love pour on troubled waters! I recall the bright tranquillity of an aged grandmother, whose active days were over and who could only sit in her chair and look her benedictions on us all. That smile of hers lubricated all the wheels of daily life; it dried up all tears as the sun dries up the showers, and shed an atmosphere of peace and harmony through the household.

4. Love takes hold on the infinite. Ambition disappoints and pleasure cloys, but love never dies. It has its successive growths. The child’s love is fickle and selfish; that of the youthful pair is founded on mutual esteem and gets chilled, but that of a mother yearns to give its best treasures even to the prodigal, and to love him back to purity. There are no mathematics, no question of “seventy times” of forgiveness in such love. It is a picture of the love of God, and lifts us towards the Infinite. True love inspires the missionary, who, like Carey or Martin, goes to far-off lands with the gospel, or to the loathsomely sick in hospital, or to the brutal in prison. This is the secret of Paul’s boast that he could do all things, for, to him who thus loveth, “all things are possible.” (J. B. Thomas, D. D.)


Verse 3-4

Philippians 2:3-4

Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory

I.
There are two ways of doing even the best work. Through strife and through love. This was seen in chap. 1, where two classes of preachers were described.

II. Entire sympathy with Christ will always heighten man’s appreciation of man.

III. Christianity is thus the only humanizing and fraternizing religion.

IV. Self-seeking is in utter antagonism to the spirit of Christianity.

V. Christianity never encourages a degrading view of human nature. Man is to be “esteemed” by man. Christians are to recognize each other’s excellencies. Love’s eye is quick to detect virtue in another. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Observe--

I. How things are often done--in a spirit of selfish opposition; of vain-glorious assumption.

II. How they ought to be done--in humility, giving the honour to others. (D. Lyth, D. D.)

Unanimity

I. Up to this point the apostle continues his appeal for unanimity. The spirit of this appeal is that of profound and tender sympathy with Christ. When history gives up her dead it will be found that where the rod has conquered its tens, love has won its thousands. The anxiety for entire oneness in the Church is in harmony with Christ’s prayer. Paul was wont to call for this. Absence of union is a reflection on the uniting force.

II. The uniting force in a Christian Church is the love of Christ. Where, then, there is disunion, it is plain that there is either not sufficient of this love, or that it is unequal to the exigencies of the case. Hence the grandeur and urgency of the appeal, “If there be any consolation in Christ;” as though he had said, “Remember that Christ’s love is on trial.” Men are looking on you as an experiment, and that not only you but Christ Himself will be deeply involved in the event of failure.

III. A discordant Church is a reflection on the moral power of the Saviour, because, without Him the Church would not be in existence. The world has a right to compare the deeds of the servant with the spirit of the Master, because the connection is moral and involves responsibility. A recently erected edifice, e.g., has fallen. How do men treat the fact? They instantly connect it with the architect or the builder. When a chemical experiment has failed men blame the manipulator. So all the practices of the Church are carried back to Christ, and He is magnified, or put to an open shame, according to their nature.

IV. What conclusion are we to come to from all this on the subject of mutual discipline? Are charity and justice to be sundered? Is there not to be a law of right in the Church? Is the garment of love to be thrown over the leper? Hear what Paul says (2 Thessalonians 3:6; Romans 16:17). The tones vary but the voice is the same Christ called Herod a fox, and said that Nathaniel was without guile. God can be warm as summer and chilling as winter. The apostle is perfectly consistent. The voice is as truly one as is the voice of a mother, when she sings her child to slumber, or shrieks at the approach of a ravenous beast. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Evils to be shunned and graces to be cultivated

The words depend upon the former, “Fulfil my joy that ye be,” etc. Why? “That nothing be done through strife,” etc. As if he should have said, If there be among you contention and vain glory it is not possible that you should be like minded, and so my joy is unfulfilled.

I. He would have nothing done through contention.

1. Contention should be abandoned by Christians, i.e., they should take no pleasure in dissenting from others (Galatians 5:20; Galatians 5:24; Proverbs 26:21). The schisms and heresies wherewith the Church at all times is troubled, come commonly from men who take a pleasure in dissent, such as Arius, Nestorius, Macedonius, etc.

2. But may nothing be done through contention? May not Micaiah set himself against four hundred false prophets (2 Chronicles 18:1-34), and Jeremiah strive with the whole earth (Jeremiah 15:10), and a pure Church with error? To know whether any thing is done through contention two rules are necessary.

II. The apostle would repress the evil of vain-glory, a vain affection of glory, which is when vain men, to get themselves glory, single themselves in some vanity from the rest (Galatians 5:26).

1. The reason is that men desirous of this cannot, as they should, as becometh Christians, be of one accord with others.

2. It is vain-glory that we are not to affect, for this glory is allowable that men speak well of us, and glorify God on our behalf.

III. As a remedy the apostle prescribes meekness of mind.

1. Humility is opposed to contention and vain-glory as a preservative against them, and a preserver of that unity and concord of which they are the bane.

2. Ye see how it is defined to be a virtue, whereby every man, in whatsoever state or place he be, esteemeth other better than himself (Ephesians 4:2). In modesty we are to yield in many things of our own right, so that, though David knew himself to be better than Saul, yet in meekness of mind he may esteem Saul better than himself.

IV. Another remedy (verse 4) is not to look on our own things but on the things of others. Self seeking is an enemy also to concord. If we look on our own graces, wit, learning, goods, and neglect or contemn those of other men, what else will follow but vain glory and contention (Luke 18:11). We may look on our own things and glorify God, but not to glorify them; and on the things of others, not to envy them but to reverence them. (H. Airay, D. D.)

True humility

I. Its features.

1. It distrusts self.

2. Honours others.

II. Its effect. It excludes--

1. Strife.

2. Vain-glory.

III. Its obligation.

1. It is conformable to the mind of Christ.

2. It contributes to social happiness. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Prohibitions and injunctions

I. What is forbidden.

1. Not a proper care for one’s own health reputation, interest, etc., but a selfish disregard of the happiness, claims, and rights of others.

II. What is enjoined? not inquisitiveness, but consideration, sympathy, help--because of God’s ordination, our own mutual dependence, Christ’s example, the pleasure and reward. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Selfishness

I. Its nature.

II. Operation.

III. Cure. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Vain-glory

Vain-glorious men are the scorn of wise men, the admiration of fools, the idols of parasites, and the slaves of their own vanity. (Lord Bacon.)

Lowliness of mind

If we have any graces, they are graces which ought not to elate, but to humble us; and that the more we have received, the more we ought to abase ourselves, as you see among the ears of corn, those bend their head lowest which are the best and the fullest of grain. (J. Daille.)

Humility

Of all trees, I observe, God hath chosen the vine, a low plant that creeps upon the helpful wall; of all beasts, the soft and patient lamb; of all fowls, the mild and guileless dove. Christ is the rose of the field, and the lily of the valley. When God appeared to Moses, it was not in the lofty cedar, nor the sturdy oak, nor the spreading plane; but in a bush, a humble, slender, abject shrub; as if He would, by these elections, check the conceited arrogance of man. (Owen Feltham.)

Christian humility

Rowland Hill, during his last illness, being asked by Mr. Jay if he felt his personal interest in Christ, replied, “I can see more of my Saviour’s glory than of my interest in Him. God is letting me down gently into the grave, and I shall creep into heaven under some crevice of the door.”

Avoiding vain-glory

When Lacordaire, the most renowned of Roman Catholic orators, was complimented upon being the first preacher in France, he replied, “No; I am the second; Adolphe Monod is the first.” (J. A. James.)

Frederick the Great once sent a sword to George Washington with the inscription, “From the oldest soldier to the greatest.” (H. O. Mackay.)

Truthful estimation

It is impossible for a man to esteem another better looking than himself, when he is only half as good looking. There may be a difference between men in appearance, but if a man is six feet high he cannot say of another man who is only three feet high, “I think he is taller than I am,” and be a truthful man. If a man is sagacious and he knows it--as he generally does--he cannot say that a wool gatherer is smarter than he.” If a man is generous and kind, he cannot make himself believe that a stingy man is better than he. But this is not the idea. Paul meant simply that a man who is using his whole self for other men, and is striving to help others instead of helping himself, is putting himself below others, or esteeming them better than himself. The mother esteems the child as better than herself in that sense. If either of the two is to lie awake she lies awake. She lies awake that the child may go to sleep. If either she or the babe is to go hungry it is not the babe. She esteems the babe better than herself in the sense that she gives herself away for it; that she bestows her thought and feeling and care on its behalf. Paul means that when we love our fellow men, we ought to be in that general spirit which shall lead us to feel that service rendered to others at some inconvenience, and it may be suffering, is a great deal better than rendering service to ourselves. And it comes back again to that other form, “Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself.” (H. W. Beecher.)

The estimation of self and others

In the ancient fable a man carried two bags slung over his shoulders. In the one in front he carried his neighbour’s faults: in the one behind, out of sight, he carried his own--the exact reverse of the Christian way. (Christian Age.)

The example of Christ

The primary object of the apostle in the next few verses is not to tell how great Christ was by nature, and how low He became, although in his illustration he has done so; but to show how He looked on His own things and the things of others. St. Paul begins the tale of Christ’s humiliation by referring to the state of mind which led to it; and the clause which has the prime emphasis laid upon it is that which virtually asserts that He did not regard His own things. Though the form of God was His He did not regard it with a selfish and exclusive attachment, but He laid it aside and became man. He was in the form of God, and did not think it a thing to be eagerly laid hold of to be equal with God in having or exhibiting this form. He emptied Himself of it. He did not look simply to His own things--the glories of the Godhead; but He looked on the things of others, and therefore descended to humanity and death. His heart was not so set upon His glory, that He would not appear at any time without it. There was something which He coveted more--something which He felt to be truly a ᾶρπαγμός, and that was the redemption of a fallen world by His abasement and death. Or to speak after the manner of men, two things were present to His mind. Either continuance in the form of God, and being always equal with God, but allowing humanity to perish; or vailing this form and foregoing this equality for a season, and delivering by His condescension and agony the fallen progeny of Adam. He gave the latter the preference from His possession of His “mind,” and in indiscribable generosity He looked at the things of others, and descended with His splendour eclipsed--appeared not as God in glory, but clothed in flesh; not in royal robes, but in the dress of a village youth; not as a Deity in fire, but a man in tears; not in a palace, but in a manger; not with a thunderbolt in His hand, but with the hammer and hatchet of a Galilean mechanic, and in this way He gave the Church an example of that self-abnegation and kindness which the apostle here enforces, “Look not every one on his own things, but also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Professor Eadie.)

Humility and joyfulness

Our humiliations work out our most elevated joys. The way that a drop of rain comes to sing in the leaf that rustles in the top of the tree all the summer long, is by going down to the roots first and from thence ascending to the bough. (H. W. Beecher.)


Verse 4

Philippians 2:4

Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others

Our own and others’ things

This is but a practical application of sentiments and dispositions already enforced.
The vain-glorious spirit is fussily and uselessly concerned with the affairs of others; but love, the faculty of soul sight, looks at others’ endowments and virtues and appreciates them: at others’ privileges and rights, and defends them; at others’ blessings, and rejoices in the possession of them; at others’ sorrows, and weeps over them; at others’ wants, and would supply them. And further, what Paul would have the Philippians do Christ Jesus had done (verse 5, etc.). The life of Jesus is a perfect exposition of the text.

I. What do these words prohibit?

1. A supreme and exclusive regard to our own things. It forbids--

2. Why--

II. What do these words require

1. Not the neglect of our own things--“also.” Nor does it sanction the conduct of the busybody in other men’s matters. But--

2. Sympathy with others in whatever state they may be seen by us. We are to “weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice.” Competitors in any calling find the latter very difficult.

3. Heart readiness to defend and serve others according to our opportunity and ability.

4. The avoidance of all that will damage the things of others. In a word, look not as the Priest and Levite looked, but as she good Samaritan looked--so as to enlarge the heart and open the hands.

III. To what extent are the prohibition and requirement obligatory.

1. They are addressed to “every” Christian man. Other men cannot translate them into life. We do not wonder that men say, “Your morality is too high for us.” Of course it is for those who are in the horrible pit, but not for those who are walking on the high table land with Jehovah. “Every man”

2. “On the things.”

Conclusion:

1. The text is one of the many illustrations of the practical character of New Testament teaching. Christ’s doctrines are the inspiration of its ethics. Nearly every point of Christian theology is raised in the subsequent paragraph to enforce the text. Religion is a sham if it be not practical.

2. The text exhibits a high standard of conduct, but it leads us in a path in which we may hear the Good Shepherd’s voice. He speaks these words through His apostle; elsewhere He spoke them through His life. Look at him providing for His mother amidst the agonies of the cross.

3. The text shows that a selfish man cannot be a Christian.

4. Such precepts as these exalt the dispensation to which we belong. What must Christ’s religion be if this be a precept in harmony with its doctrines, facts, ordinances, and spirit? (S. Martin.)

The evils of selfishness

1. It is true that our own things have the first claim on our regard (Proverbs 27:23; Romans 12:17). Persons without wealth cannot be generous without first seeking their own profit. Nay, attention to a lawful calling where nothing is given away benefits the community. The carpenter and the mason may have exclusive regard to their earnings, but the house they build is not less valuable. The mariner who handles dexterously the tackling of a ship, may aim only at promotion, but he is the undesigned benefactor of all on board. So with the vessel of state.

2. On these grounds some have ridiculed all philanthropy, and have pronounced a vigorous selfishness the best disinterestedness. With this the text remonstrates. Let no man look on his own things “only.” This exclusive looking is--

I. Mean in itself. The effect of such action may be magnificent, but that does not alter its inglorous character. Each of the lower animals in satisfying its immediate wants tenders some service to the whole economy of life. Nay, insensible matter has comprehensive usefulness. The eye is affected by its colours, the ear by its vibrations, etc., and each molecule has its share in imparting the stability of attraction to the stellar universe. For a man to tell us, then, that he is doing good when it is not his aim is to appropriate a praise due equally to brutes and vermin. You must do good with an intent to do it, and find your motive and reward in communicating bliss.

II. Ruinous to society.

1. How far is the adage, “Every man for himself,” to he carried?

2. To think or act otherwise will leave countless evils without remedy, and create manifold disasters. The landed proprietor will look only to his rents, the manufacturer think only of the number of his “hands,” the railway contractor strive only to make the most of his navvies without the least care for evils which may entail ruin and death. The neglect of superiors foments dislike, and induces all those jarrings which marked the decline of ancient commonwealths.

3. The man who cares for none but himself does harm by his very presence. He is like an iceberg, which, straying into warmer latitudes, reduces instantly their temperature, replaces their pure air by fogs, the bright sun by gloom, and a luxuriant vegetation by decay.

III. Opposed to the whole spirit of the gospel. Scripture associates the conceptions of God and goodness. He did not need to give His bounties for His own happiness. He does not confine them to friends; His foes share them. But He is more than good; He “so loved the world,” etc., and He who was sent in love, came and suffered in love, to teach us not to look on our own things, but also on the things of others. (D. King, LL. D.)

Christian disinterestedness

I. What the text forbids.

1. Negatively. Not proper self-attention, which reason and Scripture combine to enforce. You may, and aright, look on your own things--

2. Positively. Look not exclusively. “Also on the things of others”; “No man liveth unto himself”; “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

II. What it enjoins.

1. How are we to look on the things of others?

2. Why are we to look?

Christian obligation

Man’s first obligation is to save his own soul; his second to save the souls of others. The first is implied, the second taught in our text. Observe--

I. The personal state of every Christian places him under an obligation to promote the work of God. Being initiated into the faith and privileges of the Christian covenant, he is bound to hold it as a whole. Now, Christianity contemplates not only his personal illumination, happiness, and preparedness for heaven, but it equally contemplates the same privileges for others, and constitutes saved men its agents. The true Christian, then, does not meditate upon misery and leave it in its destitution.

II. The spiritual graces and gifts possessed by the church lie her under an obligation of devoted zeal to God.

1. Spiritual blessings can only be enjoyed in spiritual channels. You cannot bestow the tenderness of Christian affection on gold and commerce and art. They must be employed religiously.

2. The moral power of Christianity can only be employed morally, and no other form of power--that of genius, science, oratory, magistracy, etc., can supply its place in the Church. It is of no great consequence on what nature this moral force operates. Take a feeble branch and engraft it on a living tree, and it partakes of the beauty and vigour of the tree, and bears fruit. And this moral power operates individually, as in Howard, Wilberforce, and Wesley, or it may be centralized in the Church. But we must be careful not to drown the individual in the society.

3. The Church also possesses the gifts of the Spirit, which can only be devoted to religious objects. On these and on Him who gives them depends the life of the Church.

4. Other gifts are superadded for the purpose of conveying the truth to the world.

III. From the situation of Christians in the kingdom of God they are bound to promote its interests. Christian patriotism suggests that we should defend the faith, and Christian philanthropy that we should extend it.

IV. The great alternative before us--whether we and the world will go to heaven or hell--makes it imperative on us to do our utmost to promote true religion. (J. Dixon, D. D.)

Doing good

I. The evil the text guards us against--Selfishness. Self-preservation is indeed the first law of nature, but we are bound to observe the higher law of grace--“Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

II. The duty the text enjoins--To care for and promote the welfare of our fellow men. True benevolence demands--

1. Our personal exertion towards our families, friends, neighbourhood, world.

2. Our property.

3. Our influence.

4. Our prayers.

III. Some motives to the observance of this duty.

1. He who cares only for self is a useless member of society.

2. The law of nature requires the exercise of beneficence (Acts 10:26).

3. The pleasure of doing good invites to it.

4. A regard for the esteem of our fellow men.

5. The Word of God enforces it.

6. The example of Christ sets it forth.

7. The hope of standing without confusion before the judgment seat of Christ is an important consideration. (Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)

Sectarianism

What is it? It is the overweening zeal for a part to the prejudice of the whole, and it has four great spheres.

I. The sectarianism of the individual.

1. Our first association with religion is its bearing on our own salvation. All the world for us centres round the question, “What must I do to be saved?” And so far we must for the time look on our own things, and not on the things of others. And we want to see more of this personal conviction and individual dealing of the soul with Christ.

2. But twin monsters are begotten alongside of the genuine conviction, and begin at once to make a personal interest in religion a sectarian interest.

II. The sectarianism of the congregation.

1. I would speak with the deepest sympathy of congregational life. Our most blessed hours are connected with it, and its records are a ground for thankfulness. And it is to be viewed in relation to its whole work, Sunday school, tract society, etc.

2. But it is subject to sectarianism, and that in a more virulent form, because of the strength of its organization. I find it in the pronouns which appropriate religion--“my,” “our.” These contain--

3. The best means to counteract this is to take an interest in another Church’s work, or at least to join it on a common platform.

III. The sectarianism of the denomination. It is this we usually think of as sectarianism.

1. But for two causes, their historical greatness and the overweening claims of a portion of the clergy, there would be nothing to be feared; for the belief in the Divine sanction of the denominations has waned considerably in the last two centuries, and each contributes its quota to full Christian life; and again they have been very useful as checks and chasteners to each other.

2. But the advantages of amity among the denominations are obvious.

IV. The sectarianism of religion.

1. We speak of that alone as religion which consists in prayer, Bible reading, public worship, etc.; but surely the administration of justice, the enactment of laws, education, etc., are religious. The Bible knows nothing of the distinction between secular and sacred, but only that between good and evil.

2. The man who marks out a particular sphere as religious, and bans the rest as worldly, makes religion a sectarian thing which grows narrower and pettier continually. The religion that has no message for the workman in his shop, the artist in his studio, the scientist in his laboratory, is in danger of alienating, not drawing mankind. (The Hon. and Rev. W. H. Fremantle, M. A.)

Regard for others

Two boats were sent out from Dover to relieve a vessel in distress. The fury of the tempest overset one of them, which contained three sailors, one of whom sank. The two remaining sailors were floating on the deep; a rope was thrown to one of them from the other boat, but he refused it, crying out, “Fling it to Tom; he is just ready to go down. I can last some time longer.” They did so. Tom was drawn into the boat. The rope was then flung to the generous tar, just in time to save him also from drowning. (W. Baxendale.)

Unselfish care for others

A very poor and aged man, busied in planting and grafting apple trees, was interrupted by the question, “Why do you plant trees who cannot hope to eat the fruit of them?” He raised himself up, and, leaning on his spade, replied, “Some one planted trees before I was born, and I have eaten the fruit; I now plant for others, that the memorial of my gratitude may exist when I am dead and gone. (W. Baxendale.)

Disinterested friendship

The Rev. Thomas Thomason, while at Cambridge, having once gained the Norissian prize for a theological essay, tried a second time for it, but was surpassed by his friend Jerram. The latter thus describes the incident: “One morning Thomason hastened into my room, followed by one of the beadles, and with a gladness of heart which I shall never forget, told me that the prize was awarded to me, and that the beadle, not knowing my room, had called at his and asked where he could find me. I sincerely believe my friend could scarcely have rejoiced more had he a second time succeeded.” Thomason’s account to his mother was as follows:--“I have lost the prize; Jerram has got it. I am not mortified; it is still in the family, a young man of the same college, of the same Church and profession. I have had it once; it ill becomes me to murmur.” It is pleasant to learn that Thomason again gained the same prize on two successive occasions. (J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)

Religious selfishness common

“I have been a member of your Church for thirty years,” said an elderly Christian to his pastor, “and when I was laid by with sickness only one or two came to see me. I was shamefully neglected.” “My friend,” said the pastor, “in all those thirty years how many sick have you visited?” “Oh,” he replied, “it never struck me in that light. I thought only of the relation of others to me, and not of my relation to them.”

Self-sacrifice for others

An engineer in the Southwest, on a locomotive, recently saw a train coming with which he must collide. He resolved to stand at his post and slow up the train until the last minute, for there were passengers behind. The engineer said to the fireman, “Jump! One man is enough on this engine. Jump!” The fireman jumped, and was saved. The crash came. The engineer died at his post. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

Christian disinterestedness

It was said of Wilberforce that he was asked one day by a pious lady how the salvation of his own soul fared in the midst of business entailed on him by his efforts for the slave, and that he answered (surely a noble answer), “Madam, I forgot for the time I had a soul.” (W. H. Fremantle, M. A.)

Others before self

Thomas Sampson was a working miner, and worked hard for his bread. The captain of the mine said to him on one occasion, “Thomas, I’ve got an easier berth for you, where there is little comparatively to do, and where you can earn more money. Will you accept it?” What do you think he said? “Captain, there’s our poor brother Tregony. He has a sick body, and he is not able to work as hard as I am. I fear his toil will shorten his useful life. Will you let him have the berth?” The captain, pleased with his generosity, sent for Tregony, and gave him the berth. Thomas was gratified, and added, “I can work a little longer yet.” (Sunday Magazine.)

The difficulty of looking on the things of others

In the journals of the sainted wife of Jonathan Edwards it is recorded how one of her great struggles was to acquiesce in the revival work in the town being done by another minister than her husband. (W. H. Fremantle, M. A.)

Considering others before self

A German countryman went one day with his four sons to the neighbouring town to transact some business. While there, in the market place, he bought five peaches. One of these he kept for his wife, who was at home, and the others he gave to his boys. When they were sitting round the fire the next evening, he thought he would ask each of his sons what he had done with his peach. The eldest said he had eaten his, but had kept the stone to plant in the garden, in hopes that it would grow up and bear some peaches as good as the one he had so much enjoyed. The youngest boy confessed he had eaten his own peach and thrown the stone away, and after his return home had helped his mother to eat half of her peach! The second eldest boy told how he had picked up the stone which his little brother had thrown away, and cracked it, and eaten the kernel. “It was nice and sweet,” he added, “and I sold my own peach for so much money that I have enough to buy several peaches now with what I got for it.” The third son then had to tell his tale. The others had told all theirs out at once with no hesitation and no shame, but this little lad blushed as he began his story: “I took my peach to a poor little friend who has been in bed for so long, and suffers so much pain. He refused to take it from me, so I put it on his bed and ran away.” His mother’s kisses, as she heard these words, were far sweeter on his young lips than any fruit. (T. T. Shore.)


Verses 5-11

Philippians 2:5-11

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus--Observe

I. The picture. Majesty--condescension--suffering.

II. The lesson. Humility--love--self-sacrifice. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Lessons taught by the humiliation and exaltation of Christ

The apostle was exhorting the Philippians to imitate the humility and disinterestedness of the Saviour. But there could have been no force in the example if Jesus Christ had not been God.

I. A brief illustration of this impressive description of the redeemer.

1. Jesus Christ is here presented as subsisting originally in the splendour of Deity. “Form of God” must not be explained to mean any temporary manifestation such as the Theophanies of the Old Testament. Fire, e.g., is the symbol of Deity, as was the Shechinah, but not the form. That has an integral meaning.

2. He humbled Himself. Had He not done so God would never have been seen by His creatures. Notice the gradation.

3. Elevation.

II. The all important lessons.

1. Disinterestedness. “Look not every one on His own things,” etc. This is just what Christ did, and that, not because there was any worthiness in man, but out of love.

2. Self-sacrifice. There is no religion without an imitation of Christ’s self abandonment.

3. Perseverance. If anything could have stopped Christ in his work He would have been stopped.

Conclusion: Let, then, this mind be in you. I argue with you on the ground--

1. Of your Christianity. O Christian, from whence did you derive your name.

2. Of gratitude. What do you owe to Christ?

3. Of the intercession of Christ.

4. Of the great worth of the soul.

5. Of the glories of the kingdom of Christ. (T. Lessey, M. A.)

The humiliation and glory of Christ

I. Let us trace the humiliation and glory of Christ.

1. The point of departure, where is it? On earth or in heaven? In humanity or in Deity? Those who contend from the simply human view of the nature of Christ say that He began to condescend somewhere in His earthly lifetime, as if that could be a mighty argument for humility. No, we must begin where Paul begins. “In the form of God” can only mean possessing the attributes of God (2 Corinthians 4:4; Hebrews 1:3; John 1:1).

2. Being thus Divine, He did not deem His equality with God a thing to grasp at and eagerly retain. He emptied Himself of His heavenly glory, and having humbled Himself as a common man He humbled himself yet more, becoming obedient to the death which only the lowest malefactors could die.

3. Of course there could be no essential change in this humiliation. Jesus could never be less than Divine. The Divine glory dwelt within the human nature as within a veil. It shone out at times and then all was dark again. The glory of His boyhood was seen in the temple; of His manhood on the Mount of Transfiguration; He gave but a look in the garden out of His divinity and the soldiers fell back.

4. At the lowest point of the humiliation the ascent begins in the worship of the penitent thief, in the words of the soldier, in the reverence shown to His body, in His resurrection and triumphant ascension.

5. The name is the character, influence; and to that all creation shall do homage, because in some way affected by it.

II. The practical purpose.

1. The inculcation of humility. You see what Christ has done. Do likewise; be lowly, go down. Ah, the contrast between Christ and many who bear His name! He in greatness and glory coming down so far! We in our blindness and littleness, all struggling to rise.

2. If His life is the model of my own; if His cross repeats itself in the cross I bear for Him; then there comes to me a truer elevation. “God hath highly exalted Him,” and that is a pledge that those who have been with Christ in His humiliation shall together sit on His throne.

3. Wherefore work out your own salvation--by self-denial, humility, and this with fear and trembling, because it is the only thing you need fear about. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

The supreme example of self-renunciation

These words are the grandest and most profound, and at the same time the most copious and unrestrained which St. Paul ever used on this subject, his final and finished formula of the Incarnation. It is wonderful to observe with what tranquillity, ease, and unconsciousness of effort this amazing subject is introduced. All comes as a matter of course. He does not say “Behold, I show you a mystery.” It flows as naturally from His pen as a simple motive for Christian duty, as if it were the commonplace of theological truth as familiar to them as to Himself. So, doubtless, it was.

I. There is one person here and one only. The name Jesus Christ is given to that Person, who, before the Incarnation, was “in the form of God,” and afterwards, “in the form of a servant.” He may be called by any name, “Son of God” or “Son of man,” but that name always signifies His Person as possessed of two natures. Accordingly, that Person may be the subject of two classes of predicates. The Divine nature never has a human attribute, nor the human a Divine, but the Divine-human Person may be spoken of as having both. So here St. Paul is referring to a thought of the Eternal Son which implied that He was not yet man. The example is that of Christ Jesus in the flesh, but its strength and obligation are based upon the fact that it was the divinity in Christ that began the mediatorial humiliation.

II. The pre-existent nature and form of being is here strikingly described. Paul uses an expression which indicates the relation of the Second Person of the Trinity to the First, that of eternal subordination without implying inferiority. As the Father cannot be without the Son, as being cannot be without its image, so the Godhead in the Second Person had its form--the essential attributes and glories of Deity which He might lay aside without losing the divinity of His Eternal generation.

III. The act of incarnation is attributed to that pre-existent person. He resolved to empty Himself of all the glories, prerogatives, and manifestations of the Godhead and animate a human nature. This was His own act. There was a concurrence of the Holy Trinity. The Father by an eternal necessity begetting His Son, begets Him again in indissoluble union with our nature. The Holy Ghost is the Divine instrument of the Father’s will in that office. But it was the Son’s own act to conjoin with Himself this new man. Now, though our human nature is not an ignoble thing, yet His coming in the likeness of a nature that evil had defiled, was a condescension which might be termed a humiliation. His Divine repute was for a season suspended, and He was reputed among the transgressors.

IV. The reality of his assumption of human nature is set forth by three expressions.

1. “Form of a servant.” The entire history of our Saviour’s human existence was that of the mediatorial servant of God (Isaiah 42:1-25). As such He proclaimed Himself, and was proclaimed (Acts 3:26). The term is parallel with “form” of God, and signifies that in His human nature His manifestation was that of the servitude of redemption. Our human nature was the towel with which He girded Himself (John 13:1-38). He took our humanity only that He might serve in it.

2. “Likeness of men” limits itself to the mere assumption of our nature, and indicates that He became man otherwise than others become men;, that His human nature was perfect, but it was representative human nature, “likeness of men.” So that the apostle’s careful definition leaves room for all that range of difference between Him and us that theology is constrained in reverence to establish.

3. “Found in fashion as a man” completes the picture of the Incarnation by realizing it and giving it location among men. He was all by which a man could be observed, judged, estimated. He was “found” numbered as one of the descendents of Adam.

V. The design of the wonderful descent (verse 8). The emptying ends with the Incarnation; but the example of self-renunciation is further exhibited.

1. The death of the cross was imposed on Him as a great duty. Much is here omitted because of the special purpose in view. Paul says nothing about our Lord’s birth under the Mosaic, nor His obligations as under the moral law, nor the endless indignities that He accepted. He singles out the one tremendous imposition that He should die for sin. Death was the goal of a great obedience. All other duties tended to this, and found in this their consummation.

2. This great obedience was voluntarily assumed in humility. It was not merely death, but a humiliating and cursed death. But to this He submitted, passive before men because inwardly passive before God.

VI. This spontaneous, perfect self-sacrifice is an example, the ruling and regulative principle, indeed, of all Christian devotion and service. That man’s salvation required this is taken for granted, but is not dwelt upon. As an example, however, it may be viewed under two aspects.

1. As the perfect exhibition of self-renunciation.

2. The reality of the example to us. Elsewhere it is said that Christ in His meek endurance and self-sacrificing devotion left us an example. Paul shows that all who are Christ’s undergo in their degree His lot and share His destiny. “If any man will serve Me,” etc. Those who shall reign with Christ must first suffer with Him. The spirit of union with Christ imparts this first principle of the Saviour’s consecration; it must become the ruling principle in us also. (W. B. Pope, D. D.)

The great example

The apostle enforces the previous counsels to the cultivation of self-denying love by the argument strongest of all to the Christian heart, the example of the Lord Jesus.

I. God condescended to become man.

1. Christ did not change His nature, an impossibility, but His “form,” and in the surrender of this Divine dignity for us points to the duty of our surrender of ease, rank, repute, and even life, for the good of others.

2. The work of love seemed a greater thing than His retention of what was originally His own, and not an object of mere ambition.

3. So He emptied Himself of this “form,” the glory in which He was revealed to the angels, and to Moses, and Isaiah.

II. As a man He went down into the depths of humiliation.

1. His obedience exhibits--

2. His obedience led Him to the death of the cross, a death--

3. All this was voluntary.

III. In reward for His obedience He was crowned with glory and honour.

1. This was done by the Father who in the economy of Redemption represents the majesty of the God head.

2. This was done for the purpose of securing for Christ universal supremacy and homage.

3. The end of all was the glory of God the Father in conformity with the Son’s prayer--“Glorify Thy Son that Thy Son also may glorify Thee.” Conclusion: The fitness of the wonderful paragraph as an argument to enforce the exhortation. All this was out of love for you. Imitate this love in its devotion, self-forgetfulness, humility. (R. Johnstone, LL. B.)

An appeal for the cultivation of a right spirit

This comprehensive passage can be used for theological purposes only by accommodation. It is a practical exhortation rather than a theological disquisition. Paul is not arguing a doctrinal point, or rebutting an heresy. There is no evidence that the Philippians were unsound. It is simply the groundwork for a powerful appeal for the cultivation of a right spirit. Paul’s argument, based on the Messianic history, may be thrown into this shape. You Philippians have been a great joy to me, but my joy is not quite full. Your unanimity is not perfect. “Let this mind be in you,” etc. That mind was condescending, unselfish, most loving. Some of you imagine yourselves too elevated to mingle with others. But Christ, who was infinitely elevated, stooped to servitude and death. Let His mind, then, be in you, and nothing shall be done through strife and vain-glory. The highest should prove his highness by serving the lowly.

I. Every feature in Christian character may be carried back to and examined in the light of the whole history of Christ. The Christian is always representing or misrepresenting Christ.

II. These delineations of Christ reveal the true method of rendering service to man. Human deliverance and progress will remain a theory only until men come to work on the method here stated. Great philanthropic programmes must begin at Bethlehem, and comprehend the mysteries of Calvary if they would ascend from Bethany to the heavens. To serve man Christ became man. So in serving others we must identify ourselves with them. This identification with the race made Christ accessible to all classes. We too must go down.

III. Christ’s piety was not a mere index finger. Instead of saying, “That is the way,” He said, “I am the way.” Men fail when they say “that” instead of “I,” when they give a pronoun instead of the living substantive of their own sanctified character. Instead of seeing how the world’s misery looks after it has flown from a secretarial pen, and taken form upon the clean foolscap of a great society we should lay our own white hand on the gashed and quaking heart of humanity.

IV. Condescension is not degradation.

1. Was Christ degraded? Go into the territories of wretchedness and guilt upon any other business than that of Christ and you will be degraded. Benevolence will come forth unpolluted as a sunbeam.

2. More: How do you teach a child to read? By beginning at the rudimentary line, and accompanying Him patiently through all introductory processes. So Christ does in the moral education of the race.

V. Are we to come down to men or are men to be brought up to us? Both. We have here also a revelation of the glory which is in reserve for those who adopt Christ’s method. Christ had that glory of right: His followers bare it of grace. Christ promises exaltation to all who overcome. Conclusion:

1. God overrules the most improbable means to the accomplishment of the greatest ends.

2. The true worker is never finally overlooked. “Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great.” Why? “Because He hath poured out His soul unto death.” In apparent weakness may be the sublimest mystery of power. A man may be conquering when in a very passion of suffering. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The mind of Christ

I. Its features. Humble--obedient--loving--self-sacrificing.

II. Its reward. Exaltation--honour--glory.

III. Its obligation. We are redeemed by Him--must be conformed to Him. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Christ is our pattern

It is said that, thinking to amuse him, his wife read to Dr. Judson some newspaper notices, in which he was compared to one or other of the apostles. He was exceedingly distressed: and then he added, “Nor do I want to be like them; I do not want to be like Paul, nor Apollos, nor Cephas, nor any mere man. I want to be like Christ. We have only one perfectly safe Exemplar,--only One, who, tempted like as we are in every point, is still without sin. I want to follow Him only, copy His teachings, drink in His Spirit, place my feet in His footprints, and measure their shortcomings by these, and these only. Oh, to be more like Christ!”

How to obtain the mind of Christ

As certain silk worms have their silk coloured by the leaves on which they feed, so, if we were to feed on Christ, and nothing else but Christ, we should become pule, holy, lowly, meek, gentle, humble; in a word, we should be perfect even as He is. What wonderful meat this must be! O my brethren, if you have ever tried the flesh and blood of Jesus as your soul’s diet, you will know that I am not speaking vain words! There is no such sustenance for faith, love, patience, joy, as living daily upon Jesus, our Saviour. You who have never tasted of this heavenly bread, had better listen to the word, “O taste and see that the Lord is good!” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The lesson of humility

The heathen had semblances or images of well-nigh every virtue. He had many excellences, here and there, which put Christians to shame. Wretchedly corrupt as life was upon the whole, still not individuals only, but even nations, had great single virtues. The heathen had self-devotion, contentment, contempt of the world, and of the flesh; he had fortitude, endurance, self-denial, abstemiousness, temperance, chastity, even a sort of reverence for God whom he knew not; but he had not humility. The first sin, the wish to be as God, pride, spoiled them all. Man, in his natural state, claims, as his own, what is God’s; and so he displeases God, whom he robs of His honour. And so the first beginning of Christian virtues is to lay aside pride. It is to own that we have nothing, that so we may receive all and hold all of God; and when, as being in Christ and partaking of His riches, we begin to have, still to own that, of our own, we have nothing. But not only in general or towards God have we need to be humble. It enters in detail into every Christian grace, so that well-nigh the whole substance of the Christian discipline is humility. Every mountain of human pride must be brought low, to prepare the Lord’s way; and so shall the lowly valley be exalted. Without humility, there can be no resignation, since humility alone knows its sufferings and sorrows to be less than it deserves; no contentment, for humility alone knows that it has more blessings than it deserves; no peace, for contention cometh of want of humility; no kindness, for pride envieth; and this St. Paul assigns as the very reason why “love envieth not,” that it “is not puffed up,” that is, is humble. How shall there, without it, be any Christian grace, since all are the fruits of God’s Holy Spirit, and He “resisteth the proud and giveth grace unto the lowly?” He “dwelleth in the humble and contrite heart.” If love be the summit of all virtue, humility is the foundation. He humbled Himself, because He loved us: we must he humble, in order to love Him; for to such only will He impart His love. “The publican would not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven,” and God was more pleased with the confession of sins in the sinner, than in the recounting of the virtues of the righteous. The Canaanitish woman was content with the portion of the dogs, and she had “the children’s bread.” The gate of life is low as well as narrow. Through the lowly portal of repentance, are we brought into the Church; and humble as little children must we again become, if we would enter the everlasting gates. Well indeed may the Christian be ashamed not to be humble, for whom God became humble. But this humility must be deep down in our nature, and so striking root downwards thou shalt bear fruit upwards; so laying a deep foundation, shall thy house remain. The tree falls with any gust of wind when the root is near the surface; the house which has a shallow foundation, is soon shaken. High and wide as the noblest trees spread, so deep and wide their roots are sunk below; the more majestic and nobler a pile of building, the deeper its foundation; their height is but an earnest of their lowliness; you see their height, their lowliness is hidden; the use of sinking thus deep is not plain to sight, yet were they not thus lowly, they could not be thus lofty. Dig deep then the foundation of humility, so only mayest thou hope to reach the height of charity; for by humility alone canst thou reach that Rock which shall not be shaken, that is Christ. Founded by humility on that Rock, the storms of the world shall not shake thee, the torrent of evil custom shall not bear thee away, the empty winds of vanity shall not cast thee down. Founded deep on that rock thou mayest build day by day that tower whose top shall reach unto heaven, to the very presence of God, the sight of God, and shalt be able to finish it; for He shall raise thee thither, who for thy sake abased Himself to us. (E. B. Pusey, D. D.)

The mind in Christ

The word mind generally denotes that power in man which conceives thought, weighs it, and forms conclusions. We speak of a “strong mind,” a “disordered mind.” Again, the word is used for the will power, as when we say, “I have a mind to do it.” At other times it is used for the heart or affections, e.g., “A mind at rest,” “A joy of mind,” “A grief of mind.” In the 7th of Romans it is used for the principle of grace in the heart. “But I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind.” Lastly, it is employed in a more comprehensive way, as in the text, where consecration of intellect, the aim of life, and temper of spirit are included. Christ Jesus is held up by the apostle as the model after which we should shape our Lives. As good parents train their children by example, so God our Father trains His children. Christ the Lord is at first the pattern of heavenly life to us, but becomes more the power of heavenly life within us. Christ answers all the requirements of an example to us. We need for such--

I. A being of boundless capacity. The Bible represents Christ as God and Creator. Look to created things and see the power of His being. The drop of water has all the power and freshness which He gave it on the morning of creation. The effect cannot be greater than the cause. The sun shines with the same fulness of warmth and light and life as when it waked the first germ into life, yet it is but “the work of His fingers.” But what are these as witnesses compared with the experiences of pure hearts who, in all generations, have been able to sing, “The Lord is my light and my salvation?”

II. One whose nature is like ours, and is at the same time above sin. Look to the glory and yet the humanity of His nature. Earth did not, it could not, lift itself toward heaven. He became “Immanuel--God with us.” “He took upon Him the form of a servant,” etc. The prostrate vine cannot lift itself again to clasp the tree and climb among its branches; but if the tree bow itself and unloose the tendrils from the roots and briers, the vine may find its place of rest and fruitfulness. This the tree cannot do; but God in Christ has thus bowed Himself to fallen man.

III. One who presents to us freshness and variety of mind and soul. We read, “Thou hast the dew of thy youth.” “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Selecting as emblems those objects that are most expressive of life and beauty and blessing, the Saviour takes their name upon Himself. He is the “Sun of Righteousness,” “The Star out of Jacob,” “The Morning Star,” “The Light of the World.” And then coming to things of earth--He is the sheep that is dumb before her shearers, and is presently “the Good Shepherd.” He is the “Lamb of God,” etc. He is the “Fountain Opened,” The “Tree of Life,” “The Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley.” In short, He is light for the eye, sound for the ear, bread for food, water for thirst, peace for the troubled, and rest for the weary. Over against every door of the mind and every window of the soul He stands laden with riches and waiting for admission.

IV. We need in the culture of the mind and soul one who has surpassing wisdom. In Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Conclusion: What are we to be like Him in?

1. In our aim in life.

2. In our spirit and temper. (E. P. Ingersoll.)

The mind in Christ

I. In Him.

II. In you.

III. In you by His Spirit.

IV. In you as a means of happiness and salvation. (cf. Lyth, D. D.)

The mind that was in Christ Jesus

Was--

I. Self-abnegating. If Christ, being God, for our sakes became man, may we not learn to forego, for the sake of each other, our own private advantages?

1. The rich may give to the poor, just as Christ for our sakes became poor.

2. The poor, themselves, should be helpful, just as Christ being poor was able to make many rich.

II. Condescending. He stooped from highest glory to our low estate, thereby teaching those who have the advantage of ability and attainments to condescend to the ignorance and incapacity of their less favoured brethren.

III. Non-complaining. Hence, the poor and ignorant should learn to cease from murmuring against those who have become better off by diligence, frugality, and sobriety, and to wear with cheerfulness the garb of poverty He wore, and receive with thankfulness the hardships He bore before them.

IV. Non-contentious. All, whatever their condition, should learn to contend less for their ownselves in the pursuit of this world’s advantages, and leave more room for their neighbours’ advancement and more cordially promote it. Industry is commendable, but grasping and jealousy are alien to the mind of Christ. We should let live as well as live.

V. Abhorrent of sin. So much so that He humbled Himself to the death of the cross to destroy it. The Christian, therefore, should mortify the affections of the flesh.

VI. Fearless of death. He encountered it with joy that He might deliver us from bondage unto the fear of death. (C. Girdlestone, M. A.)

Christ’s was--

I. A fearless mind. He braved--

1. Public opinion.

2. Persecution.

3. Death.

II. A self-denying mind: and such in us will enable us, like Him, to forego--

1. Present advantage for the good of others.

2. Popularity for the sake of principle.

3. Personal claims, profit and pleasure for usefulness.

III. A laborious mind. Christ was ever thinking, planning, devising for others.

IV. A broadly sympathetic mind. Helpfulness should be united with tenderness.

V. A patient mind. How He waited those thirty years; how He bore with the ignorance of His disciples, and the malignity of His murderers.

VI. A hopeful mind. He saw beyond the cross. “He saw of the travail of His soul and was satisfied.” (H. B. Rawnsley.)

I. What is meant by the mind of Christ? His view of things, and to have that mind is to think and feel about things as He did. He came down from heaven to study matters on the spot, and we can never have right views unless we take His point of view. But He came down not only to have right views but to rectify what was wrong. Hence, His standpoint was benevolent. He came not to judge but to save the world.

II. What was Christ’s mind when He became incarnate?

1. His view of man. This is seen sufficiently in the fact that He took man’s nature. Creation gives us a high estimate of manhood. The Incarnation one far higher. God made it: God wore it.

2. His view of the soul. He thought it was worth shedding His blood for. How much are we willing to give to save a soul? We do so little because our estimate is so low.

3. His view of sin. He deemed it an evil so terrible that He must give His life to atone for it Ought not this to produce in us a due sense of its enormity.

4. His view of the world and its glory. He treated the offer of Satan with contempt, and told Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world. How contrary our own view.

5. His view of the use of time. “I must work the works of Him that sent me,” etc. What a lesson to the indolent and procrastinating.

6. His view of the obligations of religion. In childhood, while obedient to His parents, He recognized a higher authority than theirs. “Wist ye not,” etc. Later on, “If any man love father and mother more than Me.”

7. His view of wealth and poverty--“The foxes have holes,” etc.

8. His view of God’s Word--“Man shall not live by bread alone.”

9. His view in regard to His enemies--“Father, forgive them,” is the practical commentary on “Love your enemies.”

III. How are we to attain this mind?

1. Only by union with Him through faith.

2. This mind is to be cultivated by a diligent study of His precepts and example with the help of His Spirit. (J. W. Reeve, M. A.)

The imitableness of Christ’s character

1. That character as depicted by the evangelists is the perfection of beauty, and the more we contemplate it the stronger must be our convictions of the divinity of His religion.

2. Christ’s character is exhibited not for advocacy or admiration, but for imitation, and the best evidence of our interest in Him is our likeness to Him. Without this our religion is vain. The mind that was in Him, and is to be in us, was one of--

I. Eminent humility. Man fell by pride, and must be raised by humility.

1. Upon this Christ insisted. His first beatitude was on the poor in spirit. The condition of discipleship is to learn of Him who was “meek and lowly in heart.”

2. Christ combined the highest displays of dignity with unaffected lowliness.

3. This humility was uniformly displayed in self-denial, forbearance, forgiveness, gentleness, patience, submission.

II. Sublime benevolence. This was exhibited--

1. In the intense solicitude with which He regarded the interests of others; and if we would be conformed to the mind of Christ we must extirpate selfishness and live for the welfare of men.

2. In the work He undertook and the sacrifice He made. Some people manifest only feeling, but real charity like Christ’s is always practical.

3. In the spirit and temper which marked all His procedure. It did not confine itself to occasional great efforts.

III. Supreme devotion. If we want to know what the law of God requires we see it is Christ whose meat was to do God’s will and to finish His work. This principle--

1. Had all the constancy of influence on His mind in every transaction. It did not appear in peculiar forms or on special occasions.

2. It was manifested in the spirit of prayer.

3. It was marked by uniformity, and not by fits and starts.

Conclusion: Various considerations to enforce the imitation of this bright example.

1. It was the great design of the Saviour to secure this conformity to the virtues of His life, even by His mediation.

2. It was His command to do as He had done.

3. There is not a doctrine or principle of our religion that does not lead to this and present a motive.

4. All the tendencies and affections of every renewed mind are in harmony with this important claim.

5. Heaven will be the perfection of this conformity. (Joseph Fletcher, D. D.)

The obedience of Christ

By having the mind of Christ is not meant doing exactly as He did, but having the disposition so that had we been in His circumstances we should have done what He did, and so acting in our circumstances as He would act were He in them. Here His obedience is set forth for our imitation. Notice that it was--

I. Voluntary, not forced or reluctant. “He made Himself,” “He took,” “He humbled Himself.”

1. There was no compelling power in heaven, earth, or hell.

2. The inspiration of this obedience was love to God and man.

3. Human obedience to be of any value must be the free and joyful outcome of love.

II. Humiliating.

1. Obedience is easy when the path is agreeable and the end profit or renown. In Christ’s case the, pathway was the manger and the wilderness, etc., and the goal the cross.

2. There was no species of humiliation, sin only excepted, which Christ did not endure.

3. This is the first step in true human obedience, for before that can be rendered, pride, self-seeking, self-importance, must be subdued.

4. This can only be effected by the religion of Jesus.

II. Persevering--“unto death.”

1. The last term of our Lord’s obedience was the hardest and worst. His other trials, heavy enough, were only preparatory. Our obedience will be worthless unless we endure to the end. “Forasmuch as Christ hath suffered for us, arm yourselves with the same mind.” (C. Bradley, M. A.)

The Christian temper

I. Humility.

1. This is important because it is the particular grace here inculcated, and is the root of all other graces.

2. Pride is natural to man and must be repressed in the believer by three considerations.

II. Piety.

1. This was eminently seen in Christ.

2. The natural man is ungodly.

3. The spirit of piety will render those acts of religion natural and pleasant which are intolerably burdensome to the unconverted.

III. Spirituality (John 3:6).

1. We derive our fleshly nature from our first parents. Natural men mind earthly things, while the things of the Spirit of God are foolishness unto them.

2. The believer, born from above, is spiritual, and minds heavenly things.

3. This constitutes the difference between the two, and determines the destiny of each (Romans 8:6).

IV. Contentment (Philippians 4:11-13). This is--

1. Generated by Divine grace.

2. Sustained by the Divine promises.

V. Meekness (Matthew 5:5; 2 Corinthians 10:1). This meekness is not the effect of constitution or the calculation of self-interest; it is the gift of God working on the lines of Christ’s example.

VI. Mercy (Hebrews 5:2; Matthew 5:7; Romans 9:23; Colossians 3:12).

1. To the souls of men.

2. To their bodies.

VII. Sincerity. This is the soul of all religion (2 Corinthians 1:12; John 1:48). Conclusion:

1. See how excellent is the religion of Jesus.

2. Learn the necessity of something more than morality.

3. How vain the profession of the gospel without its temper.

4. How far we come short of this example. (G. Burder.)

The problem of the age

(Proverbs 23:17 in connection with text):--Now, while Solomon lays down the broad general principles concerning the prime importance of one’s theory of things, Paul, in this passage, gives a clear and terse expression to the Christian theory of human life, and urges its acceptance with the most intense earnestness--“Have this mind,” etc. Christ Himself stands out as the embodiment of the Christian theory. I propose to show that this theory is unique and contrary to the popular view of this age in--

I. Its method of estimating the value of man in this would.

1. It estimates him not by what is on him or around him or in his possession, but by what is in him. Be such in soul as Christ was.

2. I seriously question whether Christ, where He to appear as of old among men, would find many who would be willing to acknowledge themselves to be of His class in society. Would He have the shadow of a title to respectability in what the world is pleased to call the “best society.”

3. It is hard to gain any adequate conception of how belittling and degrading such modern views are. But whether we are aware of it or not, society is suffering the disastrous consequences of this lowering of the estimate of character. We are coveting the same things that made wreck of the old nations, and forgetting the thing that has distinguished the Christian from them. The only possible remedy is to be found in making Christ’s view our own, and shaping social life and intercourse according to that. “Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”

II. The Christian theory of life is unique, and contrary to the popular theory of this age in the supreme end that it proposes for human conduct. That end is absolute righteousness in conformity to the will of God. There is no escaping the fact that Christ exalted righteousness as the governing principle of the universe. Now there are two radically variant views concerning the supreme end of human conduct--that which finds it in God, and that which finds it in man. The latter is the outcome of our depraved nature. It may be traced along the line of heathen and materialistic thought from Epicurus to Herbert Spencer and Paul Janet. In its grosser form it makes the quest for happiness the supreme thing for man. Its positive rule is, “Enjoy yourself;” its negative, “Don’t get hurt.” You cannot make men of breadth and stature on that basis. The view dwarfs and deadens humanity. The antagonistic view of Christianity finds the supreme end of human conduct and activity in connection with God. Virtue is righteousness, conformity to the law of the moral Governor. And yet, is it not true that, as we throw away Christ’s standard of manhood--character--we also cast aside His theory of the supreme rule of human conduct? Nay, does not the fact that we have repudiated that rule account for our present view of character? Does net the average man oftener ask the question, Will this make me comfortable? Will this secure my happiness? or, Will this increase my fortune? or, Will this enlarge my knowledge or culture? than the question, Is this right? It is this selfish, so called morality that has brought the degradation of character, the general corruption.

III. The Christian theory is unique and contrary to the popular theory in the law which it proposes for the attainment of the highest success in human life--the law of self-sacrifice. Man is born into the world the most helpless of animals, and, what is more, the most selfish of all animals. The problem of human life, for the parent, human and divine, is how to develop the generous manhood and womanhood out of this intensest of all animalism. Just here it is that man is most fearfully made. He can only gain by renouncing. He seeks for himself and his own selfish aims only, at the peril of ,missing all. The law of the gospel is, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” etc. Seek other things first, and you lose them all. “He that loseth his life shall find it,” etc. If the wretched and unsuccessful man will look into his heart he will find that he is breaking this great law of life, and is suffering for his breach of it. He is making too much of self, possessions, success, and is thereby forfeiting the very things he desires most. The human disappointment and unrest will continue with the resultant envy and strife until Christ’s law of self-sacrifice is accepted. With the mind that was in Christ Jesus, we shall find the true solution of the dark problem that has led so many into pessimism.

IV. The Christian theory is unique in the kind of life that it proposes to man for the satisfaction of his active nature: a life devoted to the glory of God in redemption. This was the supreme thing in the life of Christ. For this He obeyed, suffered, and died. On the ground of this God has highly exalted Him. And so in the gospel view, the work for which man is in the world. We have had our popular theories of moral reform without Christ; but if anything has been demonstrated by human history, the only universal and effective method of such reform is that which starts out from Christ and His gospel. When, and only when, you make the drunkard a real Christian, you make sure that he will be a temperate man. We have had our popular theories of education without Christ, but nothing now seems more certain than that they practically end in corruption and crime. We devote our powers with tremendous energy to the production and acquisition of wealth and the advancement of material civilization, with the inevitable result of overproduction and periodical depression, in which much of the fancied gain disappears. If one half the energy were expended in the higher line of gospel effort we might have steady increase of solid wealth with permanent prosperity, and all this in a world of constantly increasing purity and peace. Living on such principles our souls might grow as rapidly as our fortunes, instead of being blighted and dwarfed by covetousness. (Pres. D. S. Gregory.)

Paul’s method of exhortation

Just as some orator, skilfully addressing a company of soldiers on the eve of battle, begins with admonition and ends with a picture; just as he would appeal to their manhood, their consistency, their honour, and their courage, as he would play upon their fear of disgrace and their contempt of poltroonery; just as he would follow up each motive with another and a more elevated one, until, at the last, he would invoke their patriotism and their love for their leader, alike and together, by unfurling the national ensign and showing them how he had caused to be painted across the folds the likeness of the face they knew; so here the apostle seeks to arouse Christian enthusiasm by quickly exhibiting the very image of the Captain of our salvation, and bidding us follow Him alone. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)


Verses 5-11

Philippians 2:5-11

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus--Observe

I. The picture. Majesty--condescension--suffering.

II. The lesson. Humility--love--self-sacrifice. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Lessons taught by the humiliation and exaltation of Christ

The apostle was exhorting the Philippians to imitate the humility and disinterestedness of the Saviour. But there could have been no force in the example if Jesus Christ had not been God.

I. A brief illustration of this impressive description of the redeemer.

1. Jesus Christ is here presented as subsisting originally in the splendour of Deity. “Form of God” must not be explained to mean any temporary manifestation such as the Theophanies of the Old Testament. Fire, e.g., is the symbol of Deity, as was the Shechinah, but not the form. That has an integral meaning.

2. He humbled Himself. Had He not done so God would never have been seen by His creatures. Notice the gradation.

3. Elevation.

II. The all important lessons.

1. Disinterestedness. “Look not every one on His own things,” etc. This is just what Christ did, and that, not because there was any worthiness in man, but out of love.

2. Self-sacrifice. There is no religion without an imitation of Christ’s self abandonment.

3. Perseverance. If anything could have stopped Christ in his work He would have been stopped.

Conclusion: Let, then, this mind be in you. I argue with you on the ground--

1. Of your Christianity. O Christian, from whence did you derive your name.

2. Of gratitude. What do you owe to Christ?

3. Of the intercession of Christ.

4. Of the great worth of the soul.

5. Of the glories of the kingdom of Christ. (T. Lessey, M. A.)

The humiliation and glory of Christ

I. Let us trace the humiliation and glory of Christ.

1. The point of departure, where is it? On earth or in heaven? In humanity or in Deity? Those who contend from the simply human view of the nature of Christ say that He began to condescend somewhere in His earthly lifetime, as if that could be a mighty argument for humility. No, we must begin where Paul begins. “In the form of God” can only mean possessing the attributes of God (2 Corinthians 4:4; Hebrews 1:3; John 1:1).

2. Being thus Divine, He did not deem His equality with God a thing to grasp at and eagerly retain. He emptied Himself of His heavenly glory, and having humbled Himself as a common man He humbled himself yet more, becoming obedient to the death which only the lowest malefactors could die.

3. Of course there could be no essential change in this humiliation. Jesus could never be less than Divine. The Divine glory dwelt within the human nature as within a veil. It shone out at times and then all was dark again. The glory of His boyhood was seen in the temple; of His manhood on the Mount of Transfiguration; He gave but a look in the garden out of His divinity and the soldiers fell back.

4. At the lowest point of the humiliation the ascent begins in the worship of the penitent thief, in the words of the soldier, in the reverence shown to His body, in His resurrection and triumphant ascension.

5. The name is the character, influence; and to that all creation shall do homage, because in some way affected by it.

II. The practical purpose.

1. The inculcation of humility. You see what Christ has done. Do likewise; be lowly, go down. Ah, the contrast between Christ and many who bear His name! He in greatness and glory coming down so far! We in our blindness and littleness, all struggling to rise.

2. If His life is the model of my own; if His cross repeats itself in the cross I bear for Him; then there comes to me a truer elevation. “God hath highly exalted Him,” and that is a pledge that those who have been with Christ in His humiliation shall together sit on His throne.

3. Wherefore work out your own salvation--by self-denial, humility, and this with fear and trembling, because it is the only thing you need fear about. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

The supreme example of self-renunciation

These words are the grandest and most profound, and at the same time the most copious and unrestrained which St. Paul ever used on this subject, his final and finished formula of the Incarnation. It is wonderful to observe with what tranquillity, ease, and unconsciousness of effort this amazing subject is introduced. All comes as a matter of course. He does not say “Behold, I show you a mystery.” It flows as naturally from His pen as a simple motive for Christian duty, as if it were the commonplace of theological truth as familiar to them as to Himself. So, doubtless, it was.

I. There is one person here and one only. The name Jesus Christ is given to that Person, who, before the Incarnation, was “in the form of God,” and afterwards, “in the form of a servant.” He may be called by any name, “Son of God” or “Son of man,” but that name always signifies His Person as possessed of two natures. Accordingly, that Person may be the subject of two classes of predicates. The Divine nature never has a human attribute, nor the human a Divine, but the Divine-human Person may be spoken of as having both. So here St. Paul is referring to a thought of the Eternal Son which implied that He was not yet man. The example is that of Christ Jesus in the flesh, but its strength and obligation are based upon the fact that it was the divinity in Christ that began the mediatorial humiliation.

II. The pre-existent nature and form of being is here strikingly described. Paul uses an expression which indicates the relation of the Second Person of the Trinity to the First, that of eternal subordination without implying inferiority. As the Father cannot be without the Son, as being cannot be without its image, so the Godhead in the Second Person had its form--the essential attributes and glories of Deity which He might lay aside without losing the divinity of His Eternal generation.

III. The act of incarnation is attributed to that pre-existent person. He resolved to empty Himself of all the glories, prerogatives, and manifestations of the Godhead and animate a human nature. This was His own act. There was a concurrence of the Holy Trinity. The Father by an eternal necessity begetting His Son, begets Him again in indissoluble union with our nature. The Holy Ghost is the Divine instrument of the Father’s will in that office. But it was the Son’s own act to conjoin with Himself this new man. Now, though our human nature is not an ignoble thing, yet His coming in the likeness of a nature that evil had defiled, was a condescension which might be termed a humiliation. His Divine repute was for a season suspended, and He was reputed among the transgressors.

IV. The reality of his assumption of human nature is set forth by three expressions.

1. “Form of a servant.” The entire history of our Saviour’s human existence was that of the mediatorial servant of God (Isaiah 42:1-25). As such He proclaimed Himself, and was proclaimed (Acts 3:26). The term is parallel with “form” of God, and signifies that in His human nature His manifestation was that of the servitude of redemption. Our human nature was the towel with which He girded Himself (John 13:1-38). He took our humanity only that He might serve in it.

2. “Likeness of men” limits itself to the mere assumption of our nature, and indicates that He became man otherwise than others become men;, that His human nature was perfect, but it was representative human nature, “likeness of men.” So that the apostle’s careful definition leaves room for all that range of difference between Him and us that theology is constrained in reverence to establish.

3. “Found in fashion as a man” completes the picture of the Incarnation by realizing it and giving it location among men. He was all by which a man could be observed, judged, estimated. He was “found” numbered as one of the descendents of Adam.

V. The design of the wonderful descent (verse 8). The emptying ends with the Incarnation; but the example of self-renunciation is further exhibited.

1. The death of the cross was imposed on Him as a great duty. Much is here omitted because of the special purpose in view. Paul says nothing about our Lord’s birth under the Mosaic, nor His obligations as under the moral law, nor the endless indignities that He accepted. He singles out the one tremendous imposition that He should die for sin. Death was the goal of a great obedience. All other duties tended to this, and found in this their consummation.

2. This great obedience was voluntarily assumed in humility. It was not merely death, but a humiliating and cursed death. But to this He submitted, passive before men because inwardly passive before God.

VI. This spontaneous, perfect self-sacrifice is an example, the ruling and regulative principle, indeed, of all Christian devotion and service. That man’s salvation required this is taken for granted, but is not dwelt upon. As an example, however, it may be viewed under two aspects.

1. As the perfect exhibition of self-renunciation.

2. The reality of the example to us. Elsewhere it is said that Christ in His meek endurance and self-sacrificing devotion left us an example. Paul shows that all who are Christ’s undergo in their degree His lot and share His destiny. “If any man will serve Me,” etc. Those who shall reign with Christ must first suffer with Him. The spirit of union with Christ imparts this first principle of the Saviour’s consecration; it must become the ruling principle in us also. (W. B. Pope, D. D.)

The great example

The apostle enforces the previous counsels to the cultivation of self-denying love by the argument strongest of all to the Christian heart, the example of the Lord Jesus.

I. God condescended to become man.

1. Christ did not change His nature, an impossibility, but His “form,” and in the surrender of this Divine dignity for us points to the duty of our surrender of ease, rank, repute, and even life, for the good of others.

2. The work of love seemed a greater thing than His retention of what was originally His own, and not an object of mere ambition.

3. So He emptied Himself of this “form,” the glory in which He was revealed to the angels, and to Moses, and Isaiah.

II. As a man He went down into the depths of humiliation.

1. His obedience exhibits--

2. His obedience led Him to the death of the cross, a death--

3. All this was voluntary.

III. In reward for His obedience He was crowned with glory and honour.

1. This was done by the Father who in the economy of Redemption represents the majesty of the God head.

2. This was done for the purpose of securing for Christ universal supremacy and homage.

3. The end of all was the glory of God the Father in conformity with the Son’s prayer--“Glorify Thy Son that Thy Son also may glorify Thee.” Conclusion: The fitness of the wonderful paragraph as an argument to enforce the exhortation. All this was out of love for you. Imitate this love in its devotion, self-forgetfulness, humility. (R. Johnstone, LL. B.)

An appeal for the cultivation of a right spirit

This comprehensive passage can be used for theological purposes only by accommodation. It is a practical exhortation rather than a theological disquisition. Paul is not arguing a doctrinal point, or rebutting an heresy. There is no evidence that the Philippians were unsound. It is simply the groundwork for a powerful appeal for the cultivation of a right spirit. Paul’s argument, based on the Messianic history, may be thrown into this shape. You Philippians have been a great joy to me, but my joy is not quite full. Your unanimity is not perfect. “Let this mind be in you,” etc. That mind was condescending, unselfish, most loving. Some of you imagine yourselves too elevated to mingle with others. But Christ, who was infinitely elevated, stooped to servitude and death. Let His mind, then, be in you, and nothing shall be done through strife and vain-glory. The highest should prove his highness by serving the lowly.

I. Every feature in Christian character may be carried back to and examined in the light of the whole history of Christ. The Christian is always representing or misrepresenting Christ.

II. These delineations of Christ reveal the true method of rendering service to man. Human deliverance and progress will remain a theory only until men come to work on the method here stated. Great philanthropic programmes must begin at Bethlehem, and comprehend the mysteries of Calvary if they would ascend from Bethany to the heavens. To serve man Christ became man. So in serving others we must identify ourselves with them. This identification with the race made Christ accessible to all classes. We too must go down.

III. Christ’s piety was not a mere index finger. Instead of saying, “That is the way,” He said, “I am the way.” Men fail when they say “that” instead of “I,” when they give a pronoun instead of the living substantive of their own sanctified character. Instead of seeing how the world’s misery looks after it has flown from a secretarial pen, and taken form upon the clean foolscap of a great society we should lay our own white hand on the gashed and quaking heart of humanity.

IV. Condescension is not degradation.

1. Was Christ degraded? Go into the territories of wretchedness and guilt upon any other business than that of Christ and you will be degraded. Benevolence will come forth unpolluted as a sunbeam.

2. More: How do you teach a child to read? By beginning at the rudimentary line, and accompanying Him patiently through all introductory processes. So Christ does in the moral education of the race.

V. Are we to come down to men or are men to be brought up to us? Both. We have here also a revelation of the glory which is in reserve for those who adopt Christ’s method. Christ had that glory of right: His followers bare it of grace. Christ promises exaltation to all who overcome. Conclusion:

1. God overrules the most improbable means to the accomplishment of the greatest ends.

2. The true worker is never finally overlooked. “Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great.” Why? “Because He hath poured out His soul unto death.” In apparent weakness may be the sublimest mystery of power. A man may be conquering when in a very passion of suffering. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The mind of Christ

I. Its features. Humble--obedient--loving--self-sacrificing.

II. Its reward. Exaltation--honour--glory.

III. Its obligation. We are redeemed by Him--must be conformed to Him. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Christ is our pattern

It is said that, thinking to amuse him, his wife read to Dr. Judson some newspaper notices, in which he was compared to one or other of the apostles. He was exceedingly distressed: and then he added, “Nor do I want to be like them; I do not want to be like Paul, nor Apollos, nor Cephas, nor any mere man. I want to be like Christ. We have only one perfectly safe Exemplar,--only One, who, tempted like as we are in every point, is still without sin. I want to follow Him only, copy His teachings, drink in His Spirit, place my feet in His footprints, and measure their shortcomings by these, and these only. Oh, to be more like Christ!”

How to obtain the mind of Christ

As certain silk worms have their silk coloured by the leaves on which they feed, so, if we were to feed on Christ, and nothing else but Christ, we should become pule, holy, lowly, meek, gentle, humble; in a word, we should be perfect even as He is. What wonderful meat this must be! O my brethren, if you have ever tried the flesh and blood of Jesus as your soul’s diet, you will know that I am not speaking vain words! There is no such sustenance for faith, love, patience, joy, as living daily upon Jesus, our Saviour. You who have never tasted of this heavenly bread, had better listen to the word, “O taste and see that the Lord is good!” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The lesson of humility

The heathen had semblances or images of well-nigh every virtue. He had many excellences, here and there, which put Christians to shame. Wretchedly corrupt as life was upon the whole, still not individuals only, but even nations, had great single virtues. The heathen had self-devotion, contentment, contempt of the world, and of the flesh; he had fortitude, endurance, self-denial, abstemiousness, temperance, chastity, even a sort of reverence for God whom he knew not; but he had not humility. The first sin, the wish to be as God, pride, spoiled them all. Man, in his natural state, claims, as his own, what is God’s; and so he displeases God, whom he robs of His honour. And so the first beginning of Christian virtues is to lay aside pride. It is to own that we have nothing, that so we may receive all and hold all of God; and when, as being in Christ and partaking of His riches, we begin to have, still to own that, of our own, we have nothing. But not only in general or towards God have we need to be humble. It enters in detail into every Christian grace, so that well-nigh the whole substance of the Christian discipline is humility. Every mountain of human pride must be brought low, to prepare the Lord’s way; and so shall the lowly valley be exalted. Without humility, there can be no resignation, since humility alone knows its sufferings and sorrows to be less than it deserves; no contentment, for humility alone knows that it has more blessings than it deserves; no peace, for contention cometh of want of humility; no kindness, for pride envieth; and this St. Paul assigns as the very reason why “love envieth not,” that it “is not puffed up,” that is, is humble. How shall there, without it, be any Christian grace, since all are the fruits of God’s Holy Spirit, and He “resisteth the proud and giveth grace unto the lowly?” He “dwelleth in the humble and contrite heart.” If love be the summit of all virtue, humility is the foundation. He humbled Himself, because He loved us: we must he humble, in order to love Him; for to such only will He impart His love. “The publican would not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven,” and God was more pleased with the confession of sins in the sinner, than in the recounting of the virtues of the righteous. The Canaanitish woman was content with the portion of the dogs, and she had “the children’s bread.” The gate of life is low as well as narrow. Through the lowly portal of repentance, are we brought into the Church; and humble as little children must we again become, if we would enter the everlasting gates. Well indeed may the Christian be ashamed not to be humble, for whom God became humble. But this humility must be deep down in our nature, and so striking root downwards thou shalt bear fruit upwards; so laying a deep foundation, shall thy house remain. The tree falls with any gust of wind when the root is near the surface; the house which has a shallow foundation, is soon shaken. High and wide as the noblest trees spread, so deep and wide their roots are sunk below; the more majestic and nobler a pile of building, the deeper its foundation; their height is but an earnest of their lowliness; you see their height, their lowliness is hidden; the use of sinking thus deep is not plain to sight, yet were they not thus lowly, they could not be thus lofty. Dig deep then the foundation of humility, so only mayest thou hope to reach the height of charity; for by humility alone canst thou reach that Rock which shall not be shaken, that is Christ. Founded by humility on that Rock, the storms of the world shall not shake thee, the torrent of evil custom shall not bear thee away, the empty winds of vanity shall not cast thee down. Founded deep on that rock thou mayest build day by day that tower whose top shall reach unto heaven, to the very presence of God, the sight of God, and shalt be able to finish it; for He shall raise thee thither, who for thy sake abased Himself to us. (E. B. Pusey, D. D.)

The mind in Christ

The word mind generally denotes that power in man which conceives thought, weighs it, and forms conclusions. We speak of a “strong mind,” a “disordered mind.” Again, the word is used for the will power, as when we say, “I have a mind to do it.” At other times it is used for the heart or affections, e.g., “A mind at rest,” “A joy of mind,” “A grief of mind.” In the 7th of Romans it is used for the principle of grace in the heart. “But I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind.” Lastly, it is employed in a more comprehensive way, as in the text, where consecration of intellect, the aim of life, and temper of spirit are included. Christ Jesus is held up by the apostle as the model after which we should shape our Lives. As good parents train their children by example, so God our Father trains His children. Christ the Lord is at first the pattern of heavenly life to us, but becomes more the power of heavenly life within us. Christ answers all the requirements of an example to us. We need for such--

I. A being of boundless capacity. The Bible represents Christ as God and Creator. Look to created things and see the power of His being. The drop of water has all the power and freshness which He gave it on the morning of creation. The effect cannot be greater than the cause. The sun shines with the same fulness of warmth and light and life as when it waked the first germ into life, yet it is but “the work of His fingers.” But what are these as witnesses compared with the experiences of pure hearts who, in all generations, have been able to sing, “The Lord is my light and my salvation?”

II. One whose nature is like ours, and is at the same time above sin. Look to the glory and yet the humanity of His nature. Earth did not, it could not, lift itself toward heaven. He became “Immanuel--God with us.” “He took upon Him the form of a servant,” etc. The prostrate vine cannot lift itself again to clasp the tree and climb among its branches; but if the tree bow itself and unloose the tendrils from the roots and briers, the vine may find its place of rest and fruitfulness. This the tree cannot do; but God in Christ has thus bowed Himself to fallen man.

III. One who presents to us freshness and variety of mind and soul. We read, “Thou hast the dew of thy youth.” “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Selecting as emblems those objects that are most expressive of life and beauty and blessing, the Saviour takes their name upon Himself. He is the “Sun of Righteousness,” “The Star out of Jacob,” “The Morning Star,” “The Light of the World.” And then coming to things of earth--He is the sheep that is dumb before her shearers, and is presently “the Good Shepherd.” He is the “Lamb of God,” etc. He is the “Fountain Opened,” The “Tree of Life,” “The Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley.” In short, He is light for the eye, sound for the ear, bread for food, water for thirst, peace for the troubled, and rest for the weary. Over against every door of the mind and every window of the soul He stands laden with riches and waiting for admission.

IV. We need in the culture of the mind and soul one who has surpassing wisdom. In Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Conclusion: What are we to be like Him in?

1. In our aim in life.

2. In our spirit and temper. (E. P. Ingersoll.)

The mind in Christ

I. In Him.

II. In you.

III. In you by His Spirit.

IV. In you as a means of happiness and salvation. (cf. Lyth, D. D.)

The mind that was in Christ Jesus

Was--

I. Self-abnegating. If Christ, being God, for our sakes became man, may we not learn to forego, for the sake of each other, our own private advantages?

1. The rich may give to the poor, just as Christ for our sakes became poor.

2. The poor, themselves, should be helpful, just as Christ being poor was able to make many rich.

II. Condescending. He stooped from highest glory to our low estate, thereby teaching those who have the advantage of ability and attainments to condescend to the ignorance and incapacity of their less favoured brethren.

III. Non-complaining. Hence, the poor and ignorant should learn to cease from murmuring against those who have become better off by diligence, frugality, and sobriety, and to wear with cheerfulness the garb of poverty He wore, and receive with thankfulness the hardships He bore before them.

IV. Non-contentious. All, whatever their condition, should learn to contend less for their ownselves in the pursuit of this world’s advantages, and leave more room for their neighbours’ advancement and more cordially promote it. Industry is commendable, but grasping and jealousy are alien to the mind of Christ. We should let live as well as live.

V. Abhorrent of sin. So much so that He humbled Himself to the death of the cross to destroy it. The Christian, therefore, should mortify the affections of the flesh.

VI. Fearless of death. He encountered it with joy that He might deliver us from bondage unto the fear of death. (C. Girdlestone, M. A.)

Christ’s was--

I. A fearless mind. He braved--

1. Public opinion.

2. Persecution.

3. Death.

II. A self-denying mind: and such in us will enable us, like Him, to forego--

1. Present advantage for the good of others.

2. Popularity for the sake of principle.

3. Personal claims, profit and pleasure for usefulness.

III. A laborious mind. Christ was ever thinking, planning, devising for others.

IV. A broadly sympathetic mind. Helpfulness should be united with tenderness.

V. A patient mind. How He waited those thirty years; how He bore with the ignorance of His disciples, and the malignity of His murderers.

VI. A hopeful mind. He saw beyond the cross. “He saw of the travail of His soul and was satisfied.” (H. B. Rawnsley.)

I. What is meant by the mind of Christ? His view of things, and to have that mind is to think and feel about things as He did. He came down from heaven to study matters on the spot, and we can never have right views unless we take His point of view. But He came down not only to have right views but to rectify what was wrong. Hence, His standpoint was benevolent. He came not to judge but to save the world.

II. What was Christ’s mind when He became incarnate?

1. His view of man. This is seen sufficiently in the fact that He took man’s nature. Creation gives us a high estimate of manhood. The Incarnation one far higher. God made it: God wore it.

2. His view of the soul. He thought it was worth shedding His blood for. How much are we willing to give to save a soul? We do so little because our estimate is so low.

3. His view of sin. He deemed it an evil so terrible that He must give His life to atone for it Ought not this to produce in us a due sense of its enormity.

4. His view of the world and its glory. He treated the offer of Satan with contempt, and told Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world. How contrary our own view.

5. His view of the use of time. “I must work the works of Him that sent me,” etc. What a lesson to the indolent and procrastinating.

6. His view of the obligations of religion. In childhood, while obedient to His parents, He recognized a higher authority than theirs. “Wist ye not,” etc. Later on, “If any man love father and mother more than Me.”

7. His view of wealth and poverty--“The foxes have holes,” etc.

8. His view of God’s Word--“Man shall not live by bread alone.”

9. His view in regard to His enemies--“Father, forgive them,” is the practical commentary on “Love your enemies.”

III. How are we to attain this mind?

1. Only by union with Him through faith.

2. This mind is to be cultivated by a diligent study of His precepts and example with the help of His Spirit. (J. W. Reeve, M. A.)

The imitableness of Christ’s character

1. That character as depicted by the evangelists is the perfection of beauty, and the more we contemplate it the stronger must be our convictions of the divinity of His religion.

2. Christ’s character is exhibited not for advocacy or admiration, but for imitation, and the best evidence of our interest in Him is our likeness to Him. Without this our religion is vain. The mind that was in Him, and is to be in us, was one of--

I. Eminent humility. Man fell by pride, and must be raised by humility.

1. Upon this Christ insisted. His first beatitude was on the poor in spirit. The condition of discipleship is to learn of Him who was “meek and lowly in heart.”

2. Christ combined the highest displays of dignity with unaffected lowliness.

3. This humility was uniformly displayed in self-denial, forbearance, forgiveness, gentleness, patience, submission.

II. Sublime benevolence. This was exhibited--

1. In the intense solicitude with which He regarded the interests of others; and if we would be conformed to the mind of Christ we must extirpate selfishness and live for the welfare of men.

2. In the work He undertook and the sacrifice He made. Some people manifest only feeling, but real charity like Christ’s is always practical.

3. In the spirit and temper which marked all His procedure. It did not confine itself to occasional great efforts.

III. Supreme devotion. If we want to know what the law of God requires we see it is Christ whose meat was to do God’s will and to finish His work. This principle--

1. Had all the constancy of influence on His mind in every transaction. It did not appear in peculiar forms or on special occasions.

2. It was manifested in the spirit of prayer.

3. It was marked by uniformity, and not by fits and starts.

Conclusion: Various considerations to enforce the imitation of this bright example.

1. It was the great design of the Saviour to secure this conformity to the virtues of His life, even by His mediation.

2. It was His command to do as He had done.

3. There is not a doctrine or principle of our religion that does not lead to this and present a motive.

4. All the tendencies and affections of every renewed mind are in harmony with this important claim.

5. Heaven will be the perfection of this conformity. (Joseph Fletcher, D. D.)

The obedience of Christ

By having the mind of Christ is not meant doing exactly as He did, but having the disposition so that had we been in His circumstances we should have done what He did, and so acting in our circumstances as He would act were He in them. Here His obedience is set forth for our imitation. Notice that it was--

I. Voluntary, not forced or reluctant. “He made Himself,” “He took,” “He humbled Himself.”

1. There was no compelling power in heaven, earth, or hell.

2. The inspiration of this obedience was love to God and man.

3. Human obedience to be of any value must be the free and joyful outcome of love.

II. Humiliating.

1. Obedience is easy when the path is agreeable and the end profit or renown. In Christ’s case the, pathway was the manger and the wilderness, etc., and the goal the cross.

2. There was no species of humiliation, sin only excepted, which Christ did not endure.

3. This is the first step in true human obedience, for before that can be rendered, pride, self-seeking, self-importance, must be subdued.

4. This can only be effected by the religion of Jesus.

II. Persevering--“unto death.”

1. The last term of our Lord’s obedience was the hardest and worst. His other trials, heavy enough, were only preparatory. Our obedience will be worthless unless we endure to the end. “Forasmuch as Christ hath suffered for us, arm yourselves with the same mind.” (C. Bradley, M. A.)

The Christian temper

I. Humility.

1. This is important because it is the particular grace here inculcated, and is the root of all other graces.

2. Pride is natural to man and must be repressed in the believer by three considerations.

II. Piety.

1. This was eminently seen in Christ.

2. The natural man is ungodly.

3. The spirit of piety will render those acts of religion natural and pleasant which are intolerably burdensome to the unconverted.

III. Spirituality (John 3:6).

1. We derive our fleshly nature from our first parents. Natural men mind earthly things, while the things of the Spirit of God are foolishness unto them.

2. The believer, born from above, is spiritual, and minds heavenly things.

3. This constitutes the difference between the two, and determines the destiny of each (Romans 8:6).

IV. Contentment (Philippians 4:11-13). This is--

1. Generated by Divine grace.

2. Sustained by the Divine promises.

V. Meekness (Matthew 5:5; 2 Corinthians 10:1). This meekness is not the effect of constitution or the calculation of self-interest; it is the gift of God working on the lines of Christ’s example.

VI. Mercy (Hebrews 5:2; Matthew 5:7; Romans 9:23; Colossians 3:12).

1. To the souls of men.

2. To their bodies.

VII. Sincerity. This is the soul of all religion (2 Corinthians 1:12; John 1:48). Conclusion:

1. See how excellent is the religion of Jesus.

2. Learn the necessity of something more than morality.

3. How vain the profession of the gospel without its temper.

4. How far we come short of this example. (G. Burder.)

The problem of the age

(Proverbs 23:17 in connection with text):--Now, while Solomon lays down the broad general principles concerning the prime importance of one’s theory of things, Paul, in this passage, gives a clear and terse expression to the Christian theory of human life, and urges its acceptance with the most intense earnestness--“Have this mind,” etc. Christ Himself stands out as the embodiment of the Christian theory. I propose to show that this theory is unique and contrary to the popular view of this age in--

I. Its method of estimating the value of man in this would.

1. It estimates him not by what is on him or around him or in his possession, but by what is in him. Be such in soul as Christ was.

2. I seriously question whether Christ, where He to appear as of old among men, would find many who would be willing to acknowledge themselves to be of His class in society. Would He have the shadow of a title to respectability in what the world is pleased to call the “best society.”

3. It is hard to gain any adequate conception of how belittling and degrading such modern views are. But whether we are aware of it or not, society is suffering the disastrous consequences of this lowering of the estimate of character. We are coveting the same things that made wreck of the old nations, and forgetting the thing that has distinguished the Christian from them. The only possible remedy is to be found in making Christ’s view our own, and shaping social life and intercourse according to that. “Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”

II. The Christian theory of life is unique, and contrary to the popular theory of this age in the supreme end that it proposes for human conduct. That end is absolute righteousness in conformity to the will of God. There is no escaping the fact that Christ exalted righteousness as the governing principle of the universe. Now there are two radically variant views concerning the supreme end of human conduct--that which finds it in God, and that which finds it in man. The latter is the outcome of our depraved nature. It may be traced along the line of heathen and materialistic thought from Epicurus to Herbert Spencer and Paul Janet. In its grosser form it makes the quest for happiness the supreme thing for man. Its positive rule is, “Enjoy yourself;” its negative, “Don’t get hurt.” You cannot make men of breadth and stature on that basis. The view dwarfs and deadens humanity. The antagonistic view of Christianity finds the supreme end of human conduct and activity in connection with God. Virtue is righteousness, conformity to the law of the moral Governor. And yet, is it not true that, as we throw away Christ’s standard of manhood--character--we also cast aside His theory of the supreme rule of human conduct? Nay, does not the fact that we have repudiated that rule account for our present view of character? Does net the average man oftener ask the question, Will this make me comfortable? Will this secure my happiness? or, Will this increase my fortune? or, Will this enlarge my knowledge or culture? than the question, Is this right? It is this selfish, so called morality that has brought the degradation of character, the general corruption.

III. The Christian theory is unique and contrary to the popular theory in the law which it proposes for the attainment of the highest success in human life--the law of self-sacrifice. Man is born into the world the most helpless of animals, and, what is more, the most selfish of all animals. The problem of human life, for the parent, human and divine, is how to develop the generous manhood and womanhood out of this intensest of all animalism. Just here it is that man is most fearfully made. He can only gain by renouncing. He seeks for himself and his own selfish aims only, at the peril of ,missing all. The law of the gospel is, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” etc. Seek other things first, and you lose them all. “He that loseth his life shall find it,” etc. If the wretched and unsuccessful man will look into his heart he will find that he is breaking this great law of life, and is suffering for his breach of it. He is making too much of self, possessions, success, and is thereby forfeiting the very things he desires most. The human disappointment and unrest will continue with the resultant envy and strife until Christ’s law of self-sacrifice is accepted. With the mind that was in Christ Jesus, we shall find the true solution of the dark problem that has led so many into pessimism.

IV. The Christian theory is unique in the kind of life that it proposes to man for the satisfaction of his active nature: a life devoted to the glory of God in redemption. This was the supreme thing in the life of Christ. For this He obeyed, suffered, and died. On the ground of this God has highly exalted Him. And so in the gospel view, the work for which man is in the world. We have had our popular theories of moral reform without Christ; but if anything has been demonstrated by human history, the only universal and effective method of such reform is that which starts out from Christ and His gospel. When, and only when, you make the drunkard a real Christian, you make sure that he will be a temperate man. We have had our popular theories of education without Christ, but nothing now seems more certain than that they practically end in corruption and crime. We devote our powers with tremendous energy to the production and acquisition of wealth and the advancement of material civilization, with the inevitable result of overproduction and periodical depression, in which much of the fancied gain disappears. If one half the energy were expended in the higher line of gospel effort we might have steady increase of solid wealth with permanent prosperity, and all this in a world of constantly increasing purity and peace. Living on such principles our souls might grow as rapidly as our fortunes, instead of being blighted and dwarfed by covetousness. (Pres. D. S. Gregory.)

Paul’s method of exhortation

Just as some orator, skilfully addressing a company of soldiers on the eve of battle, begins with admonition and ends with a picture; just as he would appeal to their manhood, their consistency, their honour, and their courage, as he would play upon their fear of disgrace and their contempt of poltroonery; just as he would follow up each motive with another and a more elevated one, until, at the last, he would invoke their patriotism and their love for their leader, alike and together, by unfurling the national ensign and showing them how he had caused to be painted across the folds the likeness of the face they knew; so here the apostle seeks to arouse Christian enthusiasm by quickly exhibiting the very image of the Captain of our salvation, and bidding us follow Him alone. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)


Verses 6-10

Philippians 2:6-10

Who being in the form of God.

The three estates

The apostle evidently points out the three different conditions of Christ. His state of--

1. Dignity.

2. Humility.

3. Glory.

These three are essential to the argument, for take away any of them and the example he proposes is lost.

I. If you remove the state of Christ’s natural dignity the second state will no longer be that of humiliation, nor Christ any longer an example of humility.

II. It is implied that He was in possession of whatever belonged to his state of dignity before He underwent anything that belonged to His state of humiliation. He was in the form of God, before He was made in the likeness of men.

III. It is implied that He underwent whatever belonged to His state of humiliation before He enjoyed anything that belonged to His state of exaltation; because His exaltation was the effect and reward of His humility, and being purchased and obtained by His humility could not be antecedent to it. From whence it follows, that the term of God, being the dignity He possessed before His humiliation, does not belong to Him in virtue of anything He did or suffered, nor is any part of that glory to which He was exalted after or on account of His sufferings. To maintain otherwise is to confound the distinct states of glory which belong to Christ: the glory He had with the Father before the world was, and the glory which He received from the Father at the redemption: one the glory of nature, the other the glory of office; one the glory of the eternal Loges, the other the glory of the Son of Man. These are carefully distinguished elsewhere.

1. We find the original glory founded upon creation (Colossians 1:15-17), and in the next verse the apostle mentions a honour belonging to Christ’s exaltation founded on His resurrection. As Lord of all, He is styled the firstborn of every creature; as Head of the Church, the firstborn from the dead.

2. To raise the dead is a power equivalent to creation, and therefore St. John tells us, “The hour is coming,” etc. (John 5:25). In verse 27, however, speaking of His being Judge of the world which belongs to Him in virtue of Redemption, lies one of the glories of His exaltation. He says, “The Father,” etc.

3. In Hebrews 1:1-2 the apostle describes the dignity of the Person sent for our redemption, and evidently describes Christ’s original glory. Then follows, “When He had purged our sins,” etc., which speaks of His state of exaltation which He received after His sufferings. And in chap. 2:9, it is said that Jesus was made a little lower than the angels, but here, “better.” If He was made lower in order to redeem us, it seems to imply that He was really, and by nature, higher. We may expound Hebrews by Philippians. For when He, who was in the form of God, made Himself of no reputation, He was made lower than the angels; but when, after His suffering death, He was exalted by God then He was made so much better than the angels, as He had by inheritance a more excellent name than they (Cf. verse 9-10)
. (T. Sherlock, D. D.)

The form of God

To be in the form of God signifies not only to be King, to possess majesty and power, but also to have the insignia of royalty, its courtly train and equipage. Thus formerly among the Romans we might call the form of a consul, the equipage and pomp with which the laws and customs of that people invested those who exercised the office; the purple, the ivory chair, the twelve lictors with their fasces and rods, and such like. When, then, the apostle here says that the Lord, before taking our nature upon Him, was in the form of God, he does not merely intend that He was God in Himself, and that He had the true nature of the divinity; but, further still, that He possessed the glory and enjoyed all the dignity, majesty, and grandeur due to so high a name. This is precisely what our Lord means in St. John by the glory which He says He had with the Father before the world was. (J. Daille.)


Verse 7

Philippians 2:7

But made Himself of no reputation

The humiliation of Christ

I.
How far Christ was lessened.

1. His Godhead was obscured by the interposing veil of our flesh. He emptied Himself of the Divine glory, not by ceasing to be what He was, but by assuming something He was not before.

2. His dignity was lessened. It was a condescension of God to take notice of man’s misery (Psalms 113:6), much more to take part in it. Three steps in this condescension may be noted.

II. This was His own voluntary act. This is in no way inconsistent with the action of the Father in sending Him.

1. What He was to do and undergo was proposed to Him and willingly accepted (Hebrews 10:6-7; Isaiah 7:5; Proverbs 8:31).

2. The Scripture assigneth this work to the love and condescension of Christ Himself as the immediate cause of His performance of it (Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:25-26; Revelation 1:5-6; 2 Corinthians 8:9).

III. This work was for our sakes.

1. As our Mediator.

2. As our pattern (Philippians 2:5).

(a) It is perfect, for His life is religion exemplified, a visible commentary on God’s Word.

(b) Engaging. Christ’s submission to a duty should make it engaging to us (John 13:14; 1 John 2:6). Alexander the Great achieved most of his exploits by his example. When hard beset, he would make the first in every action.

(c) Effectual (2 Corinthians 3:18).

(d) Encouraging (Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:15).

(e) An armour of proof against all temptations (Philippians 2:5; 1 Peter 4:1).

(a) Patience under indignities undergone for God’s sake (1 Peter 2:21; Hebrews 12:2). Consider if Christ had been unwilling to suffer for us what had been our condition to all eternity! We cannot lose so much for Him as He hath for us (2 Corinthians 8:9). We are gainers by Him if we love the world for His sake (Matthew 10:29-30.)

(b) Humility. We are far inferior to Christ, and shall we stand so much on our reputation (Matthew 11:29; Matthew 20:28; John 13:3).

(c) More exact obedience (Philippians 2:8; Hebrews 5:8-9).

(d) Self-denial (Romans 15:3; John 12:27-28; Philippians 1:20).

(e) Contempt of the world and the glory thereof. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Took upon Him the form of a servant--

The mystery of Christ in the form of a servant

Christ is expressly called God’s servant (Isaiah 42:1; cf. Matthew 12:18), and “bondservant” (Psalms 11:6; cf. Exodus 21:6).

I. To whom He became a servant. To man’s great Lord and Master (Isaiah 49:3). It was with His Father He entered into the contract of service (Psalms 40:6). It was His Father’s business He was employed in (Luke 2:49; John 9:4).

II. For whom He became a servant. For and instead of those who were bound to service, but utterly unable for it.

III. The necessity of His becoming a servant for us for our salvation.

1. Mankind were constituted God’s hired servants by the first covenant, viz., of works, and extend to that in their head the first Adam. Their work was perfect obedience to the holy law; their hire was life (Romans 10:1). The penalty of breaking away from their Master was perpetual bondage under the curse (Galatians 3:10).

2. They never made out their service. Through the solicitation of the great runaway servant, the devil, they violated the covenant, and broke away from their Master. So they lost all plea for the hire, and justly became bondmen under the curse of the broken covenant of works (Galatians 4:24). Their falling under this curse inferred the loss of their liberty, and constituted them bondmen (Genesis 9:25; Joshua 9:23).

3. By the breaking of that covenant they lost all their ability for their service, and were left without strength (Romans 5:6). They had no suffering strength to bear their punishment, and so must have perished under it. They had no working strength, for their work arm, once sufficient, was broken; nay, they had neither hand nor heart for their work again (Romans 8:7; Joshua 24:19).

4. Howbeit the punishment due to them behoved to be borne, and the service to be made out according to the original contract, the covenant of works; or else they could never have life and salvation (Genesis 2:7; Isaiah 42:21; Genesis 28:15).

5. Since all this behoved to be done, and they could not do it, it was necessary for their life and salvation that Christ should come under the curse for them, accept their service, and fully serve it out for them (Galatians 3:3-5; Galatians 3:13).

IV. The contract of the service--the covenant of grace made between the Father and Christ. Heaven’s device in this case was that Christ should be the worker for life and salvation to poor sinners; and that they should get life and salvation, through Him, by His grace, and so work from life and salvation received, as sons entitled to the inheritance antecedently to all their working (Romans 6:23; Romans 4:4-5). Here consider--

(a) To illustrate the Divine glory much darkened by the hired servants of God’s own house by sin (Isaiah 49:3).

(b) To save lost sinners (Isaiah 49:6).

V. The fulfilling of the service according to the contract. It was a hard service, but He went through with it (Philippians 2:8).

1. He entered into this service by His being born holy for us, and remained so to the end. Thus He answered the demand which the law had upon them for original holiness as a condition of life (Isaiah 9:6; Luke 1:35).

2. He went on in His service in the righteousness of His life, being obedient unto death (Philippians 2:8; John 16:4).

3. Having suffered all His life long, He completed and finished His service in His death and burial; thus answering for them the law’s demand of satisfaction for sin (John 19:30). The term of His continuance in this state of servitude was, according to the covenant, till death, but no longer (John 9:4; Job 3:19; Romans 4:9).

VI. Wherefore he engaged in this service.

1. Love to God and man (Exodus 21:5).

2. He took it on Him for releasing us from that state of bondage into which our father Adam, by his mismanagement, had brought all mankind. What Judah offered to do in the case of Benjamin (Genesis 44:33), Christ really performed in the case of His brethren.

3. To bring them into a state of adoption in the family of God. He became a bondservant that they might become sons and daughters (Galatians 4:1-5).

VII. The use.

1. To all strangers to Jesus Christ: ye are bondmen under the law, and so--

2. It lies upon you to bear the punishment due to you for breaking away from your Lord and Master (Genesis 2:17).

2. Let all be exhorted to flee to Christ, and by faith embrace Him, and the service performed by Him as their only plea for life and salvation. Surely it will be glad tidings to the poor broken hearted sinner, who sees that he cannot serve the Lord according to the demand of the law, to know that there is a service performed by the Mediator for him which is perfect in the eye of the law, and that a way of reconciliation is opened.

VIII. Improvement.

1. If you have any part or lot in this matter of Christ’s service, let it be the business of your life to serve the Lord Christ. Consider--

2. Redeemed by Christ.

(a) Not as slaves, but as children (Galatians 4:7). This is the only acceptable service.

(b) Out of love for Him (Hebrews 6:10; 2 Corinthians 5:14; 2 Timothy 1:7).

(c) Universally (Colossians 4:12).

(d) Constantly (Psalms 119:112).

(a) By being of a loving disposition towards our brethren.

(b) By doing good as we have opportunity (Galatians 6:10).

(c) Put on bowels of mercies towards those who are in distress (Colossians 3:12).

(d) Show a strict regard for justice in your dealings with men as Christ did in His dealings towards God for you.

(e) Be humble (John 13:14-15). (T. Boston, D. D.)

Christ a slave

The word “servant” does not convey to us the degree of degradation which it meant centuries ago. For service has been dignified since Christ was a servant. We know nothing now more honourable than Christian service. But He first taught us to call our servants “friends.”

I. Look at some of the laws respecting Jewish slaves so as to estimate the humiliation of Jesus; and these were mild compared with those that obtained among the Romans.

1. No slave could have any right as a citizen. If injured he had no redress. As for our Saviour, when subjected to the most outrageous wrong, no arm of the law was outstretched for His defence. “His judgment was taken away.”

2. The slave could hold no property. The Servant of servants had not where to lay His head; no money to pay His taxes; no clothes but such as privileged hands had made for Him.

3. The slave, in the eye of the law, was a mere chattel, which could be bought and sold; for the base sum of less than three pounds Judas sold his Lord.

4. At death the slave might be scourged and tortured as none other might, and the bitterest and vilest death was assigned to Him. See Jesus under the lash and on the cross the slave.

5. The law said the slave was nothing less than a dead man; Christ was “a worm and no man.”

II. As a slave Christ had two duties to execute.

1. To His Father.

2. To His people. His time while He lived on earth was not His own but theirs. He was at every one’s call. His day was all work for the creature; His night communion with the Creator. The smallest things were not beneath His attention (John 13:1-38.).

III. Inferences.

1. Of all the names a Christian can wear there is not one which places him so near his Master as this--a servant of God. St. Paul put it above his apostleship.

2. To own that title you must not regard it as a figure of speech.

Made in the likeness of men--

Christ a man

1. As soon as the Saviour had resolved to take upon Him the form of a servant, it followed that He should be “made in the likeness of men.” Fallen man is the most servile thing in God’s universe--a bond slave of Satan, “Sold under sin”--the servant of uncleanness. His passions are his masters, his fears his chains, death his cruel tyrant.

2. We must be careful not to suffer our conviction of the Deity of Christ to weaken our apprehension of His perfect manhood. For if Christ be not absolutely a man, if His divinity come in, in the least degree, to qualify His humanity, then He practically ceases to be an example, and, indeed, a substitute.

I. It was not the body of Christ only which was human while His soul was divine, but that soul and body were equally in the likeness of men.

1. His bodily presence stood forth always visibly and palpably a man. In the likeness of the infant He lay in the manger, of the boy He sat in the temple, of the man He walked the length and breadth of the land. The labouring man has the privilege of resemblance, for it is not unlikely that He worked at His father’s trade. Rest and clothes and food and warmth He needed like us.

2. Let us trace on the likeness into His spiritual being.

II. The manhood Christ assumed is full of the deepest comfort to His Church.

1. All the nature of our race was gathered and concentrated into that one human life. He stood forth as the great representative man.

2. Thus it was that Christ went down to His grave, and when He rose and was glorified the great representative principle went on. He is not the solitary conqueror entered into His rest; but the forerunner and earnest of His saints. He holds ground for us till, in due time, we shall come.

3. And so long as the needful processes of the preparation go on He there lives, and intercedes, and rules, and wears the very form in which He suffered. How certain, then, His sympathy.

III. Therefore reverence manhood. Respect a body which has such fellowships; be tender to the corporeal wants of the members of the body of Christ. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The humiliation of Christ

I. In His incarnation. The Ruler of all brought to the state of a creature.

1. To the state of an inferior creature, a man, not an angel,

2. At a time when this nature was stained by sin.

3. To be scorned by men.

4. Deprived of the joys of heaven.

5. The offspring of a poor woman.

II. In His life.

1. Born in a stable.

2. Tempted of Satan.

3. Inured to poverty.

4. Ungratefully received by His own and by the world.

III. In His death--that of a malefactor. (J. Flavel.)

The possibility of Christ’s humiliation

We have no difficulty in conceiving how a man of highest virtue, and noblest birth, and clearest intelligence, could assume an outward garb which would completely belie or hide his real character. A king need not always wear the royal robes and sit on a throne. He may become a shepherd on the him, a sailor before the mast, a servant of his own servants. Missionaries--and in this case the moral analogy is more perfect--after learning the language of a barbarous people, have gone among them, conforming to all their habits as far as they could, living a dark, rude life, submitting to every kind of trial and privation, in order to a great and beneficent end. Is it then to be said, in the ignorance of our pride, in the supercilious presumption of our poor narrow thought, that the Infinite One must always be in Divine state and glory, in one manifestation, in one form of His infinite life, that whatever transpires in the history of the world or the universe, He can do nothing except what He has been forever doing--speak no new word--make no new revelation of Himself? The assertion that God cannot lay aside some of what we may call the accidents of His being, and invest Himself in another way, is almost to assert that He is not God at all. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

“Emptied Himself”

All His attributes He veiled and hid; His infinity, to abide, like other unborn babes, within the virgin’s womb; His eternity, to receive birth in time, younger than His creatures; His unchangeableness, to grow in stature, and (as it would seem) for His earthly form to decay, and be worn by His sufferings; His wisdom, “for our sake and among us to be ignorant, as man,” “of that which, as Lord, He knew”; His self-sufficingness, that He, who had all things, became as though He had nothing. He forewent not things without Him only; He forewent Himself He, the Creator, not only made Himself to need the creatures which He had formed, and was without them--He was hungry and thirsty, and wearied--but even in the things which He wrought, He depended not alone on the Godhead within Him but on the Father. His works were not His own works but His Father’s. He came not to do His own will, but His Father’s. He prayed, and praying was heard, though He Himself was God. He was strengthened as man, by the angel, whom, as God, He created. Again, how must He have “emptied Himself” of His majesty, who, when, with a word, He could have destroyed the ungodly, and “with the breath of His mouth” have “slain the wicked,” was Himself sold into their hands for the price of a bondslave. He “hid not His face from shame and spitting,” before whom angels veil their faces. He “emptied Himself” of His immortality, and the immortal died. He became subject to death, the penalty of sin. But what seems yet more amazing, He was content to veil even that, in Himself, wherein, so to say, God is most God, the glory of the divinity, His holy being, whereby He hateth all iniquity. He who is “the Truth,” was contented to be called “that deceiver.” He hid His holiness, so that His apostate angel shrank not from approaching Him, to tempt Him. He veiled the very humility wherewith He humbled Himself to be obedient, so that Satan thought that He might be tempted through pride. He was content to he thought able to covet the creatures which He had made, and, like us, to prefer them to the Father; yea, and the very lowest of the creatures, which even man can despise. They called Him “a gluttonous man, and a wine bibber.” “We know,” say they, “that this man is a sinner.” They reproached Him for disobedience to the Father, and breaking the law which He gave. So wholly was He made like unto us in all things, sin only excepted, that man could not discern that He, the holy God, was not (shocking to say) unholy man. (E. B. Pusey, D. D.)

Condescension of Christ

During one of the campaigns in the American Civil War, when the winter weather was very severe, some of Stonewall Jackson’s men having crawled out in the morning from their snow-laden blankets, half frozen, began to curse him as the cause of their sufferings. He lay close by under a tree, also snowed under, and heard all this: but, without noticing it, presently crawled out too, and, shaking off the snow, made some jocular remark to the nearest men, who had no idea he had ridden up in the night and lain down amongst them! The incident ran through the army in a few hours, and reconciled his followers to all the hardships of the expedition, and fully reestablished his popularity. (M. O. Mackay.)

The humanity of Christ

From eternity there was the idea and image of a man in the mind of God. That man was perfect. Adam was created in his innocence a type or shadow of that man. When Adam lost the likeness, the great design of God was to restore it. To this end, Christ, who was always the real original of that man as he lay in the purposes of God, determined to take our nature. From time to time, in earnest of His future purpose, He appeared as a man to the Old Testament saints. At last, when the appointed period arrived, Christ “came after the flesh, born of a woman.” He was not at first that perfect man which lay in the intention of the Father before all ages, but He was like it, as the shadow is to the substance; and He gradually grew into it. By successive processes He attained it. First, He was natural; then, after His resurrection, He was spiritual; then, after His ascension, He was glorious; and now, still a man, entirely a man, wearing our framework, and carrying our affections, He is that very eternal man conceived in the bosom of God, and of which both Adam in Paradise and He in Bethlehem were made to be the copy and the likeness. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

And being found in fashion as a man.--

The Saviour’s fashion

I. The fashion in which Christ was found--that of a man.

1. Real, not in appearance only.

2. Perfect, both body and soul, with all the attributes of our humanity.

3. Sinless. It was needful for Him to assume this fashion.

II. What He endured in that fashion.

1. He humbled Himself to teach us the sin and folly of pride and the duty of humility.

2. He became obedient to teach us passive and active obedience to God’s will.

III. The permanence of that fashion. Other fashions change. This never. He wears the body that will be His through eternity. Conclusion:

1. This is the only fashion in which salvation can be found.

2. This is the only pattern for our holiness. (J. Irons.)

Christ degraded

1. The expressions which assert Christ’s incarnation imply His Deity. Who would say of any merely human being that he was “found in fashion as a man.”

2. Christ might have been man without humiliation: e.g., had He assumed the “glorious body” He now wears.

3. The most beautiful feature about Christ’s humiliation was that it was never prominent, but always self-forgetful. The grace of a humble mind is that it is too humble to look humble. Our Lord’s humiliation may be regarded in four stages.

I. In His incarnation. How imperceptible that was. No parade. Never did infant enter life with less consequence.

II. In His preministerial life.

1. There was the humiliation of the flight and exile into Egypt.

2. His choice of Nazareth as a home, the name of which fastened a stigma and a prejudice upon Him all His days.

3. His life of subjection and labour.

III. In His public ministry.

1. His submission to baptism. John was struck with the self-abasement of this act. Ordinances, however precious, are humbling because the badge of a fallen state.

2. His temptation. There are things we come in contact with which, though not hurtful, leave a feeling of debasement.

3. His poverty and privation.

4. His intercourse with the coarse and the sinful.

5. His subjection to the cavil of the unbeliever, and the jest of the profane.

IV. In His death.

1. The circumstances of His arrest and trial.

2. The character of His punishment.

3. His dissolution. It was humiliation indeed for God to become man; much more, being man, to die. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The humiliation of Christ

In the text we have--

1. The depth of Christ’s humiliation.

2. The manner thereof.

The Scripture marks the special stages of His humiliation.

1. He stooped to become a man. Had Christ been made an angel it had been infinitely below Himself.

2. He condescended to put His neck under the yoke of the law. (Galatians 4:4). A creature is indispensably subjected to the law of its Maker, by virtue of its creatureship and dependence, and is involved in no humiliation. But the Son of God is the Law Maker. He submitted to the ceremonial law in His circumcision, and to the moral law in His life; all which subjection was not a debt to God, but a voluntary subscription. “The law is not made,” in some sense, “for a righteous man” (1 Timothy 1:9), but is not made in any sense for the glorious God.

3. He appeared in the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3). He trod not one step awry in sin, but many of the footsteps of sin appeared upon Him: e.g.

I. What kind of death Christ humbled Himself unto. Not a natural death, nor a mere violent death, but a violent death having three embittering circumstances.

1. Pain. The easiest death is painful, however downy the bed. The first mention of Christ’s death is that of bruising (Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 53:10). So painful was it in thought that Christ shrunk from it (Matthew 26:39). Three things made the actual death painful.

2. Shame. There is nothing so sharp and intolerable, not even pain, to a noble spirit as shame (Hebrews 12:2). The cross was an ignominious death, and Christ endured it amidst circumstances of aggravated ignominy, nakedness, and scorn. All his offices were derided: His Priestly (Matthew 27:42); His prophetical (Luke 22:64); His Kingly (John 19:2-3). Notorious villains were crucified with Him. He suffered without the gate (Hebrews 12:12; Leviticus 24:14).

3. Curse. Pain was bad, shame worse, curse worst of all (Deuteronomy 21:23; Galatians 3:13; Acts 5:30).

II. In what manner Christ underwent this death.

1. Willingly. His sacrifice was a free-wilt offering. Neither the Father’s ordination nor men’s violence constituted the sacrifice (Psalms 40:7-8; John 10:17-18). He might have avoided it (Matthew 26:53), but so far from that He anticipated His executioners (John 19:33). But He was more than willing (Luke 12:50).

2. Obediently. It was His will to die; and yet He died not of His own will, but of His Father’s. The two are conjoined in Hebrews 10:7, and John 10:18. This obedience was the best part of His sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22; Matthew 26:39).

3. Humbly and meekly--(Isaiah 53:7)--from His expostulation with Judas (Matthew 26:50) to His last prayer (Luke 23:34) all is that of One who, when He suffered He threatened not (1 Peter 2:23).

III. Upon what grounds Christ thus humbled Himself to death.

1. That Scripture prophecies might be accomplished (Isaiah 63:1; Genesis 3:15; Luke 24:25-26).

2. That Scripture types might be fulfilled--Isaac, the offerings, the brazen serpent, etc.

3. That His will and testament might be firm and effectual (Hebrews 9:16-17; Luke 22:20).

4. That justice might be satisfied (Hebrews 9:22; Romans 3:25-26).

5. That He that hath the power of death might be destroyed (Hebrews 2:14).

6. To take away the meritorious cause of death, namely, sin (Romans 8:3; Romans 6:10-11; Daniel 9:24-26). Application: Three uses may be made of this doctrine.

1. For information.

2. For exhortation. If Christ shed His blood for sin

3. For comfort.

The obedience of Christ

I. Its characteristics.

1. Produced by the Spirit. He was tempted and overcame by the Holy Ghost.

2. Perfectly human, or it would be no example to us.

3. Progressive. “Though He were a Son,” etc. It grew with the growth of obligations.

4. Active and passive.

II. Its nature.

1. He obeyed the law. “Thy law is within my heart” was the language of His whole life.

2. Christ was always obeying inward principle. His outward life was the reflection of His sense of duty. How often was “I must” upon His lips.

3. Christ always set His life to the meridian of Scripture--“It is written.”

4. He was the most obedient of Sons to His heavenly Father--“I can of Myself do nothing.”

III. The harmonious adjustment of its two-fold obligations.

1. As a child He was subject to His mother--but if interfered with in His work there were the “Woman; what have I to do with thee?” or “Who is My mother?”

2. As a subject of the state He pays the tribute at the same moment that He asserts His claim and privilege as the Son of God. “Render unto Caesar,” etc.

IV. Its development.

1. As an infant He was obedient to circumcision.

2. His childhood and early manhood were subject to parental authority.

3. At thirty His argument for baptism is “Thus it becometh us,” etc.

4. In obedience to the Holy Ghost He goes into the desert and conquers by “It is written,” etc.

5. The yoke He imposes on His disciples is His own--obedience.

6. He is Lord of the Sabbath, but obeys the Sabbath.

7. The Transfiguration speaks of Sonship and service.

8. His death was the completion of His life of obedience. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Obedient unto death

The phrase states the landing place of Christ’s career of humiliation, the antipodes of the contrast, the nadir below which it was impossible for Him to go.

I. What is death--especially as expressive of the condition to which Jesus humbled Himself? Our modern conception of death has been so illumined by the doctrine of Christian immortality that we are inclined to conceive of the death of Christ simply as an analogue of ours. But death, in the person of Jesus, was the culminating catastrophe in the history of the “Man of sorrows.” To us death is the chalice whose poison has been changed by the chemistry of redeeming love into nectar; to Jesus it was a cup full of the concentrated dregs of woe. To us it is a shaft whose sting has been removed; to Him it was an arrow envenomed by the wrath of God against sin. To us it is a victory over the last and mightiest form of evil; to Him it was a surrender to the masterful forces of disorganization and ruin. To us it is an introduction into the presence and companionship of God; to Him it was an abandonment into darkness unrelieved by a ray of Divine light, and whose solitude was unblessed by a whisper of Divine love. The Atonement was no compromise between the demands of justice and the pleadings of mercy. Justice was exacted of Jesus, and mercy was proffered to man. The Deity of Christ gave inconceivable sensitiveness to the agonized consciousness of Jesus; and who shall say that, in that brief hour, Jesus did not experience a sense of the awful demerit of sin and of the fierceness of God’s wrath against it transcending the anguish of a lost soul?

II. Jesus became obedient unto death in that--

1. Death was the objective end of His mission. He came in order to do. It is possible to conceive that Jesus might have assumed our nature without submitting to the law of death. In becoming a man He did not necessarily become mortal, for mortality is not an essential condition of humanity. Adam was human, but he was not created mortal. Mortality, with Him, was a consequence of disobedience; and so Jesus, in becoming human, had He seen fit, might have been exempt from the law of death, or might have passed away by a translation, such as is recorded of Enoch and Elijah, and such as did transpire in His own history after He had risen, to die no more. But neither of these possibilities were consistent with the mission of Jesus. Without dying, His object in coming into the world would have failed of being accomplished. In this respect His death differed from ours; we are not brought into this world simply for the purpose of dying; we die because we cannot help dying. But it behoved Jesus to die. He became obedient unto death. If His object in coming into the world was to save men by the lustre of His living and by the splendour of His philosophy, why need He to have died, and why, especially, need He always have insisted upon the necessity of His death, in order that by dying He might accomplish the object which He had undertaken?

2. By the voluntary surrender of His life. Death, to us, is a surrender to an inevitable, from which we would prefer to be exempt, and at the best in most cases, it is a passive submission to a necessity, but the death of Jesus was Jesus in action.

3. In that His dying was the supreme expression of His submission to the will of the Father. It was the fitting crown of a life whose explanation was “My meat is to do the will,” etc.

III. Why, in the economy of God was it needful that Jesus should submit to death?

1. Because His subjection to the law of death was the highest, and an exhaustive test of the absolute subordination of His will to the will of His Father.

2. The obedience of Jesus unto death became the exhaustive ground on which God could justly remit the penalty pronounced against the sinner.

3. As the reward of His obedience Jesus was empowered with the prerogative of bestowing the gift of eternal life on all that believe on His name. (R. Jefferey, D. D.)

The death of the cross was--

I. A voluntary death.

II. A death of infinite love.

III. A death of kingly power.

IV. A death of terrible bodily pain and mysterious mental anguish.

V. A death of calm assurance. (R. H. Giles, B. A.)

The passion of our blessed Saviour

1. When in consequence of original apostasy from God man had forfeited the Divine amity, when having deserted his natural Lord, other lords had got dominion over him, when according to an eternal rule of justice he stood adjudged to destruction, when all the world stood guilty before God and no remedy did appear, God out of infinite goodness designed our redemption.

2. How could this happy design be compassed in consistence with the glory, justice, and truth of God?

3. God was pleased to prosecute it, as thereby no wise to impair but rather to advance His glory. He accordingly would be sued for mercy, nor would he grant it without compensation, and so did find us a Mediator and furnish us with means to satisfy Him.

4. But how? Where was there a Mediator worthy to intercede on our behalf? Where amongst men, one, however innocent, sufficient to do more than satisfy for himself? Where among angels, seeing that they cannot discharge more than their own debts of gratitude and service?

4. Wherefore seeing that a superabundant dignity of person was required God’s arm brought salvation.

5. But how could God undertake the business? Could He become a suitor to His offended self? No, man must concur in the transaction: some amends must issue from him as the offending party. So the Eternal Word assumed human flesh and merited God’s favour to us by a perfect obedience to the law, and satisfying Divine justice by pouring forth His blood in sacrifice for our sins. In this kind of passion (the death of the cross) consider divers notable adjuncts.

I. Its being in appearance criminal, as in semblance being an execution of justice on Him. “He was numbered among the transgressors.” “Made sin for us.” He was impeached of the highest crimes, and, although innocent, for them suffered death. But why such a death, since any would have been sufficient; and why such a death odious alike to Jew and Gentile?

1. As our Saviour freely undertook a life of the greatest meanness and hardship, so we might be pleased to undergo such a death.

2. This death best suited the character of His undertaking. We deserve open condemnation and exemplary punishment, wherefore He was pleased to undergo not only an equivalent pain for us, but in a sort equal blame before God and man.

3. Seeing that our Lord’s death was a satisfaction to Divine justice, it was most fit that it should be in a way wherein God’s right is most nearly concerned and plainly discernible. All judgment, as Moses says, is God’s, or is administered by authority derived from Him, magistrates being His officers. So our Lord, as His answer to Pilate testifies, received the human judgment as God’s. Had He suffered by private malice, His obedience had been less remarkable.

4. Our Saviour in any other way could hardly have displayed so many virtues to such advantage. His constancy, meekness, charity, etc., were seen by vast multitudes, and made matters of the greatest notoriety. Plato says that to approve a man righteous, he must be scourged, tortured, bound, have his eyes burnt out, and, at the close, having suffered all evils, must be impaled. The Greeks, then, in consistence with their own wisdom, could not reasonably scorn the Cross, which Christ freely chose to recommend the most excellent virtues to imitation.

II. Its being most painful, which demonstrated--

1. The vehemence of His love.

2. The heinousness of our sins.

3. The value of the compensation.

4. The exemplification of the hardest duties of obedience and patience.

III. Its being most shameful--a Roman punishment reserved for slaves, answering to the Jewish punishment of hanging up dead bodies. “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.”

1. This, ignominious in itself, exposed the sufferer to the scorn of the rude vulgar.

2. We need not doubt that our Saviour, as a man, endowed with human sensibilities, felt these indignities; and not only so, but the infinite dignity of His person and the perfect innocency of His life must have enhanced His sufferings. And so we read, “See if there be any sorrow like my sorrow.”

3. And further, there was the shameful burden of sin which He bore.

IV. Its peculiar advantageousness to the designs of our Lord in suffering.

1. It was very notorious, and lasted a competent time. Had He been privately or suddenly dispatched, no great notice would have been taken of it, nor would it have been so fully proved.

2. The nature of His kingdom was thereby signified. None but a spiritual kingdom could He have designed who submitted to this suffering.

3. It was a most convenient touchstone to prove the genuine disposition and work of men, so as to discriminate those who can discern and love true goodness though so disfigured, and not be scandalized by the Cross.

4. By it God’s special providence was discovered, and His glory illustrated in the propagation of the gospel; for how could such a sufferer gain so general an opinion in the world of being the Lord of life and glory without God’s miraculous aid?

V. Its practical efficacy. No point is more fruitful in wholesome instruction, more forcible to kindle devout affections, more efficacious in affording incentives to a pious life.

1. We are hence obliged with affection and gratitude to adore each person in the blessed Trinity.

2. What surer ground can there be of faith and hope in God “If God spared not His own Son, etc.” Who can doubt of God’s goodness, despair of God’s mercy, after this.

3. It should yield great joy to know that Christ hung there not only as a resolute sufferer, but as a noble conqueror over the devil, the world, the flesh, death, wrath, enmity, and strife, etc.

4. It should give us a humbling sense of our weakness and vileness to know that we needed such succour. Pride is madness in the presence of Him who made Himself of no reputation.

5. But as this contemplation doth breed sober humility, it should also preserve us from base abjectness of mind; for had not God esteemed us, He would not have debased Himself.

6. Can we reflect on this event without detestation of sin, which brought such a death on the Redeemer.

7. What in reason can be more powerful towards working penitential sorrow and religious fear, and stimulating true obedience?

8. It affords strong engagements to charity, to know that out of compassion for us Christ suffered.

9. It should breed a disregard for the world and its vanities, and reconcile us to even the worst condition? For who can suffer as Christ suffered. 10. It will incline us to submit cheerfully to God’s will to remember that Christ learned obedience by the things He suffered. (L. Barrow, D. D.)

The Cross the fountain of merit

I. The nature of Christ’s merit.

1. Let us gain a clear idea of a meritorious act.

2. Yet after all, with this combination of natural, super natural, and Divine energies in the work of Christ, its claim on Divine retribution must rest on some covenant or promise. Merit in the sense of an action to which a reward is due on grounds of justice can only exist where there is some stipulation. The merit which appeals to goodness sets up no claim; that which rests on fidelity involves a promise; that which trusts to the justice of the rewarder implies a covenant. Not to reward in the one case may be churlishness; in the other it would be to break one’s word; whilst in the third there would be positive dishonesty. For God therefore to be liable to any claim, He must have graciously condescended to involve Himself in an obligation. Such a covenant was made with Abraham (Hebrews 6:17-18). The entering into covenant and confirming by an oath were human types and shadows of the great covenant between God and man in Christ (Hebrews 7:21). God has entered into covenant with man in Christ to crown with a reward those works which Christ first wrought in Himself, and after wards by His grace should work through His members. All is traceable to Divine mercy as its first source (Psalms 62:12), yet it is the Divine justice which is represented as under an obligation to repay the services which are rendered (Hebrews 6:10). There is nothing derogatory to the sacred manhood of Christ in this covenant. If the Son could address the Father, and say, “Lo, I come,” etc., we can conceive the human will of Christ in fulfilling the Father’s will as resting on the Divine promise (Psalms 16:10-11; Acts 1:4).

II. The cross as its fountain.

1. The merit of the Cross rested on the whole of His life: as He foresaw His passion, so He accepted it.

2. The Cross is the great instrument in the acquirement of merit on two grounds. Merit may be calculated by the condition of the person who merits, or by the difficulty of the action. Thus if Adam in Paradise, and some of His fallen descendants were to perform the same virtuous action, the act of the former would have more merit in the one sense; the act of the latter in the other. In the latter sense the Cross outstrips all other portions of our Saviour’s life in its value. In it the activities of endurance were taxed to the utmost limit. To bear up under fierce pain for a few hours is a greater test of moral strength than the lifelong efforts of a healthy person. Not, however, that suffering in itself is acceptable to God; the thief suffered; it was the way in which the purpose for which it was borne which made it acceptable.

3. The Cross completed the treasure of merit. The Cross was the ultimate limit of those labours which purchased a reward. The resurrection, ascension, etc., could add nothing. Merit ceased with the Cross: what follows is reward (John 19:30).

4. The atoning value of the Cross lay in the removal of a hindrance: its meritoriousness acquired a positive gain. The removal of sin was the preliminary to Divine communications. Human nature was not left in a state of neutrality, as if God should look upon it without wrath or favour, hut was again to become the subject of Divine complacency.

III. The object for whom this merit was acquired.

1. For Himself (verse 9; Hebrews 2:9; Luke 24:26; Luke 24:46; Psalms 110:7; Hebrews 12:2). It was not simply glory for His body that He purchased, but exaltation and kingly power; a name above every name.

2. For all. He took the nature of all, and thus merited for all (Hebrews 2:14). But although He merited for all, all do not receive the grace He purchased. A fountain is useless to the thirsty unless they drink. What is necessary therefore is for us to become the recipients of His grace? We must have union with Christ for pardon and life (John 15:16; John 1:16; 2 Peter 1:4). Christ saves by becoming a new principle of life in the soul through the action of the Divine Spirit. (W. H. Hutchings, M. A.)

Christ’s humiliation and exaltation

(text and following):--

I. “For this cause.”

1. A cause there is. God ever exalts for a cause. Here on earth it is otherwise. Some men as Shebna, Haman, Sanballat, are exalted no man knows wherefor.

2. For what cause? His humility. Of all causes not for that, says the world. The word was not in the list of heathen virtues. Yet this last virtue is the ground of Christ exulting.

(a) Death. That staggers the best of us. We love obedience in a whole skin. And why should obedience come to that? Death is the wages of sin. Obedient and yet put to death? Even so; rather than lose His obedience He lost His life.

(b) The worst death. Nay, if He must die, let Him die a honest fair death. Not so.

II. “God hath highly exalted Him.” This exaltation is--

1. Personal.

2. The exaltation of His name, the amends for the Cross. Without a name what is exalting? Things that are exalted seem not to be so until their name go abroad in the world. And when men are so high that they cannot get higher there is no way to exalt them but to dilate their names, which every noble generous spirit had rather have than any dignity. How will they jeopard dignity and even life but to leave a glorious name behind them. But what name was given here? “the name of Jesus.”

(a) How given. Him and others had it also (Hebrews 4:8; Haggai 1:1). They had it of men, He of God. All these Jesuses had need of and were glad “to lay hold of the skirts” of this Jesus to be saved by Him.

(b) He had it before. True, but by a kind of anticipation, for it never had its perfect verification till after the crucifixion.

(c) But if given Him ἐχαρίσατο “of grace,” where is the merit then? Answer. That which is due may be cheerfully parted with as though it were a gift. But this grace is not the grace of adoption, but that of union.

(a) To Him. It is esteemed more than any other title of Deity by Him; because His glory is in it joined to our safety.

(b) To us. For it is the only name by which we can be saved. With this name there is comfort in the name of God; without it none at all.

3. “That at the name of Jesus,” etc. God, though He have so exalted it, yet reckons it not exalted until we exalt it too. So we are to esteem it above every name, and to show our esteem by bowing with the knee and confessing with the tongue.

(a) “Shall bow,” for what better way to exalt Him than by our humility, who for His humility was exalted. This honour is awarded Christ for the death of the Cross; shall we, then, rob Him of it? And He will not have us worship Him like elephants, as if we had no joints in our knees; He will have more honour of men than of pillars in the Church.

(b) Bow to His name. His person is out of sight, but His name is left behind that we may do reverence to it. But why to this name rather than to that of Christ? Christ cannot be the name of God, for God cannot be anointed. Christ was anointed that He might be Jesus--Saviour. But it is not to the syllables of the name that we are to bow. The name is not the sound but the sense--Him who is named. Of course a superstitious use has been made of this act; so there has of hearing sermons. Shall we therefore abandon hearing as well as kneeling? No! Remove the superstition and retain both. It is well to drive away superstition, but it will be well not to drive away reverence with it.

(b) Why the knee first--because we thereby put ourselves in mind of due regard to Him in reverence, and are therefore the fitter to speak of and to Him with respect.

(c) Every knee and tongue. They in heaven “cast down their crowns and fall down” and confess Him singing (Revelation 4:10); they under the earth are thrown down and made His footstool (Psalms 110:1); they on earth, as in the midst, partake of both. The better sort get to their knees gladly, and cheerfully confess Him. Infidels and Christians little better are forced to “fall backward,” and in the end to cry “Vicisti Galilaee,” though they guard their tongues when they have done.

(d) See our lot. Exalted He shall be with our wills or without them. Either fall on our knees now, or be cast on our faces then; either confess Him with saints and angels, or with devils and damned spirits.

(e) Every tongue shall do this, i.e., every speech and dialect in the world. Where are they, then, who deny any tongue the faculty here granted, or bar any of them the duty here enjoined, that lock up the public confession in some one tongue or two?

4. But though thus many tongues, one confession that “Jesus Christ is Lord.”

5. “To the glory of the Father,” whose great glory it is that His Son is Lord of such servants, that men shall say, “see what servants He hath.” How full of reverence to His name! How free and forward to do His will. (Bishop Andrewes.)

Humility

The flower of humility fills the air with perfume, but its leaves lie hidden in the shade. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Christ’s obedience unto death

His was no mere resignation, for that is the attitude of the soul toward the inevitable, h creature may risk his life, indeed, provided the aim be a true and noble one; but no right is his to throw it away. He is, on the contrary, bound to conserve it, if he car, do so without the sacrifice of higher interests. But Christ Jesus in His perfect obedience died, because He so willed, and when and as He willed. There stands in a Strasburg church a monument suggestive in its sculptured group. It is the figure of a warrior before an open grave. Death at his side is touching him with his inevitable dart, and he is represented as descending with manly step, but saddened brow, into the sepulchre yawning at his feet. Thus is depicted the lot of our common humanity. “It is appointed unto men once to die,” and when death comes, he comes resistlessly. Thus are depicted, further, the noble submission and fortitude with which the brave man, brave because he is good, meets death. But with the Captain of our salvation it was far otherwise. He had His life either to give or to keep. He gave His life with all its preciousness, a freewill offering, a priceless sacrifice “of a sweet-smelling savour unto God.” (J. Hutchinson, D. D.)

Obedient unto death

During the wars of the first Napoleon, in a naval engagement, the son of the captain of a vessel was placed by his father at a certain post and charged to keep it till his return. The captain was killed, and his vessel given over to the enemy. The boy’s position became dangerous, and he was urged to quit it. “No,” said he, “my father told me to stay till he came back.” And so listening in vain for the voice which alone he would obey, he perished in the explosion of the ship. (W. Harris.)


Verse 9

Philippians 2:9

God hath … given Him a name which is above every name

The name of Jesus

As it appears--

I.
On the page of history.

1. Its origin.

2. Import.

3. Associations.

4. Claims.

II. In the estimate of man.

1. Despised and hated.

2. Admired and wondered at.

3. Beloved and reverenced.

III. In the purpose of God: triumphant, worshipped by all in heaven, on earth, under the earth. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The name Jesus means Saviour (Matthew 1:21).

I. There is something to be saved from: sin.

1. From its penalty.

2. From its guilt. Desert of punishment is worse than punishment itself.

3. From its power. The sinner needs not only cleansing from the past, but protection for the future.

II. There is one who will save (1 Timothy 1:15). How?

1. By His incarnation, getting Himself into connection with man’s nature and condition.

2. By His work of reconciliation.

3. By winning man’s attention, gratitude, and trust through His own unutterable condescension.

4. By cleansing him from sin. (G. D. Boardman, D. D.)

The name above every name

I. Its acquisition. The name of Jesus was--

1. Chosen by God.

2. Sanctified and approved by Christ’s suffering.

3. Glorified by His exaltation.

II. Its glory. None other is--

1. So great.

2. So mighty.

3. So dear.

4. So enduring. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

A name is a call word by which we separate objects and give to each its identity.

I. The names, however, of familiar objects are not mere arbitrary signs, but symbols of quality. The words eagle, horse, bring a picture before the imagination. No picture rises at a foreign name, although it discriminates and separates. Homo once had a picture in it, but not now: although man has.

II. We see this more strikingly illustrated in the names of men. A village of people have their portraits in their names.

1. Physically. As A. is called, there is a vision of a tall man; as B., of a short man.

2. Socially and economically. One man would be generous and another stingy.

3. Morally. Faith, zeal, genius, are stored up in names.

III. We see that personal names stand for abstract excellences. Thus lover, father, child, etc., go to signify domestic excellences. When the word mother is spoken, not only does your mother come forth to your imagination in feature, but those qualities which make all mothers differ from other relations.

IV. By the extension of this practice names come to signify historic qualities. Plato means thought; Demosthenes, eloquence; Nero, cruelty; Napoleon, military genius; Howard, philanthropy.

V. The name of Jesus is above every name; not simply that His name is highest on the list, although that is the fact. We are to give to the term “name” as applied to Him its full proportions and richness of meaning.

1. Christ’s name is above that of all historical personages. The sum of their life is small compared to the magnitude of His.

2. If you gather the witnesses and martyrs that have lived in every age, the great men and nobles of whom the world was not worthy, there is not one of them that is not dwarfed by the side of the name of Jesus.

3. If you go from the best specimens of men to philosophers, poets, scholars, whatever admiration is bestowed on them, no one would dream that their name was to be mentioned by the side of His.

4. There are judges’ names that signify perfect justice, kings’ and princes’ that signify authority, splendour, and power. But has the world stored up in any of these names such associations as belong to Jesus? Is there anywhere such justice and imperialness as there are in Him? Already His name stands higher for the very qualities which go to make courts illustrious, that make men glorious in history. Once a culprit under the hand of Rome, but now through a wider world than the Roman, those governments who do not acknowledge Him are feeble and barbarous.

5. But there is a more important matter of comparison--the names of chief power on the heart--heart names. In each quality which makes the dearest names in life Christ so excels that He is infinitely above all others.

The name above every name

The Saviour’s name is above every name in respect of--

I. The greatness it represents. There is in it--

1. The greatness of nature. That which is not natively great cannot be truly and preeminently great. Can the native greatness of Christ be less than that of Deity if He is capable of receiving the glory, power, and dominion that are ascribed to Him? There are two extremes of error: the Unitarian, assimilating the Divine in Christ to the human; and the Roman Catholic, ascribing to the human Virgin what can only be Divine.

2. Greatness of character. Christ is the greatest of characters, because in Him meet all the attributes of Godhead and all the perfections of manhood.

3. The greatness of mission and work. In His mediation confessedly He stands alone; for a race that needs salvation cannot raise up one as a partaker of the Saviour in His work.

II. The influence which it exerts.

1. Through it alone salvation comes as a personal possession.

2. Every blessing that comes to the soul comes in connection with this name.

3. The results of experimental Christianity will not work where His name is denied or ignored. Physical and even moral, truths may bless the world when their propounders are forgotten. Not so with the truth as it is in Jesus. In vain we are told that religion is not a matter of history. Take away what is Divine in Jesus, and you put out the sun and endeavour to produce light by a book on optics.

III. The space which it fills. Wherever there is intelligence it is understood; wherever there is loyalty it is adored. It is coincident with civilization, law, liberty, social ties, and charities; a name of welcome and cheer to all that is true, lovely, and of good report.

IV. The period through which it endures. There are names chronicled in history which we would willingly let die; but there is a fitness and reasonableness in the perpetuation of Christ’s name. At the same time there is something surprising in it. Christ endures in an entirely different character from great conquerors and geniuses, as the founder of true religion, and She head of the Church. The name of Mohammed still endures, but is waning, whereas that of Jesus is going into new regions. This, too, in spite of opposition to His claims. (Principal Cairns.)

The music of two syllables

The name of Jesus is--

I. An easy name.

1. Easily pronounced. There are names so long and difficult that they have to be repeated before we venture to speak them; but within the first two years a child clasps its hands and says Jesus.

2. Easily remembered. Sometimes we have to pause before we can recall the names of our best friends, but we cannot imagine the freak of intellect in which we could forget this.

3. Easily recognized. The dying have been known to be oblivious to everything else.

II. A beautiful name. It is impossible to dissociate a name from the person who bears it. Names which are attractive to some are repulsive to others, because the same name is borne by different persons, and thus they convey pleasant or painful suggestions to different people. But this name is the same to all, and stands for love, patience, magnanimity, and every beautiful quality. To the penitent, afflicted, aged, it is alike beautiful.

III. A mighty name. Rothschild is a potent name in the financial world, Cuvier in the scientific, Wellington in the military; but no name is so potent to awe, lift, thrill, and bless as that of Jesus. That one word unhorsed Saul, and flung Newton on his face. That name in England means more than the queen; in Germany more than the emperor. At its utterance sin, infidelity, sorrow, and death flee away. All the millions of the race are to know and honour it.

IV. An enduring name. You pull aside the weeds and see the faded inscription on the tombstone. That was the name of a man who once ruled that town. The mightiest names in the world are perishing or have perished. Gregory VI, Richard I, Louis XIV, names that once made the world tremble, mean now to the mass absolutely nothing. But the name of Christ is to live forever. It will be perpetuated in art, in song, in architecture, in literature, and above all, will be embalmed in the memory of the good on earth and all the great ones in heaven. To destroy it would require a universal conflagration. (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)

The exalted name of Jesus

I. The meaning of the name (Matthew 1:18, etc.)--Saviour, “for He shall save His people from their sins.” Who shall save? “He.” Not we or they. If I could save myself, Christ would be no more Jesus to me.

II. Its power.

1. It has power as an authority. It gave Peter and John authority to heal the cripple, Paul and Silas to dispossess the damsel of the devil, and all to proclaim salvation.

2. As a test (Colossians 3:17) of lawfulness and unlawfulness, etc. “Can I do this or that in this name?”

3. As a plea; in prayer for pardon and blessing. “Whatsoever ye ask the Father in My name,” etc.

III. Its majesty. There have been great names in the world--Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon; but these have little majesty compared with those of Abraham, David, and Paul. But there are names higher than these--Michael, Gabriel. But all these are dim as fading stars compared with His, whose glory is as the rising sun, whose beams shall illumine a whole universe. At it all shall one day bend the knee.

IV. Its preciousness. What makes the name of home precious? Its hallowed associations. And round this name do cluster the sweetest memories, endearing it to pardoned sinners. Whisper that one word Jesus, and I think of Bethlehem and Calvary, and faces of the dear departed rise before me, and I hear once more the old songs, and see the light of former Sabbaths. All heaven is hidden in the name, and all hopes hang upon it. (H. G. Guinness.)

The importance of a name

There are merely human names that thrill you through and through. Such a name was that of Henry Clay to the Kentuckian, William Wirt to the Virginian, Daniel Webster to the New Englander. By common proverb we have come to believe that there is nothing in a name, and so parents sometimes present their children for baptism regardless of the title given them, and not thinking that that particular title will be either a hindrance or a help. Strange mistake. You have no right to give to your child a name that is lacking either in euphony or in moral meaning. It is a sin for you to call your child Jehoiakim or Tiglath-Pileser. Because you yourself may have an exasperating name is no reason why you should give it to those who come after you. But how often we have seen some name, filled with jargon, rattling down from generation to generation, simply because some one a long while ago happened to be afflicted with it. Institutions and enterprises have sometimes without sufficient deliberation taken their nomenclature. Mighty destinies have been decided by the significance of a name. There are men who all their life long toil and tussle to get over the influence of some unfortunate name. While we may, through right behaviour and Christian demeanour, outlive the fact that we were baptized by the name of a despot, or an infidel, or a cheat, how much better it would have been if we all could have started life without any such encumbrance. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

The preciousness of the name of Jesus

Years ago a French soldier who loved Napoleon was undergoing an operation, and as the surgeon pressed the probe far into his lungs to feel for the bullet that lay there, a ghastly smile came over his face. “A little deeper,” said he, “and you will find the emperor!” And Oh! I tell you Christ has had thousands of followers, who have had His name written in their inmost hearts, deeper than all other names, and thoughts, and memories--deeper than life, and death, and heaven--deeper than all, forever! (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)

A Name above every name

And in now seeking to vindicate the applicability of this remarkable language to our blessed Saviour, I would at once ask you to observe that in a certain aspect there could scarcely have been a career that seemed less likely to secure future preeminence than just the earthly career of Christ Jesus. He was cradled in a manger. He probably did live a life of toil as a village carpenter. He certainly spent His youth in a town whose special characteristics were ignorance and vice. And when He became a man and emerged from His village home into the cities of Palestine, He was opposed by all the accredited leaders of the people. I must proceed to say that all this preeminence of Christ Jesus is most natural, and, indeed, most necessary. Just as no one marvels why the name of Newton or Watt or Jenner or Simpson is ever held by us in most respectful remembrance, so no one who thinks carefully needs wonder that countless thousands hail with delight the name Jesus, and declare that this name is all their boast. For, apart altogether from anything supernatural about our blessed Saviour--regarding Him, that is, simply in the character of a mere man--what elements of true greatness were wanting in this Son of the Virgin Mary? what powers and characteristics are there which evoke men’s love and applause, which secure respect and reverence and esteem, which were wanting in Him who is the Captain of our salvation? Nay, but what is there which acts as a magnet upon men which was not possessed with peculiar intensity by Him of whom the Father declared--“This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”? As we all know, wisdom usually secures ascendancy among men. We regard Platos and Bacons as our mental kings--as real intellectual giants amongst us. But if so, how could Jesus of Nazareth occupy any other than the front rank among men? how could He be anywhere else than in “the midst” as the centre of attraction--the exemplar man? His is the very wisdom of the Deity. Most naturally, therefore, does the name of Jesus secure preeminence. And while wisdom has ever been an attractive power among men, so also we know that goodness invariably secures respect and esteem for those who have it. Benevolence, indeed, rules our hearts as if with prescriptive right; and self-sacrifice for the good of others evokes the plaudits of all thoughtful persons. No doubt there are times at which this is not so. In days in which an all-wise God gives men over to the open practice of sin, all respect for goodness and virtue, for the virtuous and good, is abandoned. But if all these things are so, how could the name of Jesus--the name of the pure, compassionate, self-denying One--the name of Him who literally died for the sons of men--but become a name which is above every name? It would have been an insult to the common sense of mankind had the world extolled, as it does, the virtues of an Augustine, a Pascal, an A Kempis, or a Vicars--had men talked as they do of the comparatively flickering torches of holiness which were waved abroad by such pious souls--and yet left unnoticed the great Sun of righteousness, Jesus Christ our Lord. Unquestionably, then, the preeminence of Christ’s name is a natural preeminence. He reigns because He has a right to reign, because He possesses, as none other ever did, all those qualities, all those excellences, all those magnetic influences by means of which hearts are enthralled and minds made submissive. (W. L. Ker, M. A.)


Verses 9-11

Philippians 2:9-11

Wherefore God hath highly exalted Him

The exaltation of Christ

I.
Its occasion.

1. His voluntary humiliation.

2. His Divine investiture.

II. Its import.

1. The glorification of humanity.

2. Investment with supreme sovereignty.

III. Its object.

1. The subordination of every creature.

2. To the human Mediator.

IV. Its ultimate issue.

1. The subjection of every foe.

2. The universal acknowledgment of Christ.

3. The full revelation of the glory of God. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The exaltation of Christ

I. The exaltation as the reward of the obedience.

1. The same Person is exalted who humbled Himself. We must not say that He was exalted in His humanity. It was not the man alone who humbled Himself. “Is Christ divided?”

2. The supreme elevation could never have been the prerogative of any created being. None but the eternal Son of the Father could have received or sustained it. But as the reward of His redeeming submission it could only be received in the person of Him who was man as well as God.

3. The redeeming God-man merited well in His obedience and death, and received an eternal and unlimited acknowledgment of His claim. The justice of God was satisfied by the punishment vicariously endured; and the love of God accepted that satisfaction as an expiation cancelling the sinner’s obligation to suffer. And the elevation of the sufferer was the declaration that the merit of His supreme obedience availed for the whole world.

4. The very word here used is that which is employed concerning those to whom the benefit of Christ’s merit is applied. We are “accepted” in the Beloved, or “graced” in Him; He was “accepted” or “graced” with the high rewards of exaltation. That, indeed, was His exaltation: not to have a name above every name simply, but to have in Himself a fulness of merit that should avail for all.

II. The exaltation as the necessary condition or the redeeming and saving work.

1. As our representative Christ was exalted, i.e., as the mediatorial Redeemer. The resurrection and ascension are most frequently regarded as part of the process of His saving course. As He fulfilled that course He must needs pass into the heavens. In His Divine human person He has “gone up higher,” but is still continuing His ministration. Had the merit of His sacrifice been simply rewarded as such, apart from His redeeming ministry, the Incarnate would have been set down literally on a throne to rest forever. In that case the language of the passage would have been different.

2. The saving name of Jesus is exalted. The “name” cannot refer to any particular designation conferred after the ascension; we know not what name could have been added to the glorious catalogue from “Emmanuel,” the first, to “Lord Jesus,” the last. We know from the Apocalypse that He has a new name, but we know also that it is only the old name more abundantly glorified; a name which He had from the incarnation, but whose full meaning could never be known until His human nature had passed through all its processes of discipline and become perfect. It is the mediatorial name, therefore, that is exalted, and that name is Jesus. Our Saviour’s dignity is His power to save, only now He redeems not by price but by power.

III. The exaltation as receiving universal recognition.

1. The homage paid to the name of Jesus is not here regarded as offered at once. It is the gradual result of His supremacy in heaven enforced in the promulgation of His claims on earth.

2. The confession is offered to the Lordship of Jesus. Our Lord receives this name in various senses.

IV. The exaltation as redounding to the glory of God. The whole mystery of the economical submission, obedience, exaltation, and dominion of Christ tends to the glory of the Father.

1. The Father is literally the Father of the Eternal Son made flesh, and not the Deity in general. The Father is the essential as well as the redeeming name of Him to whom all glory is finally given.

2. The success of the mediatorial government of our Lord redounds to the glory of the Father inasmuch as it will justify and exalt the supreme wisdom of Him who originated the plan. (W. B. Pope, D. D.)

The mediatorial exaltation

involves the two stupendous facts which close Christ’s earthly career.

I. The evidence of the fact of Christ’s resurrection.

II. The evidence of our Lord’s ascension is also clear.

1. It is twice recorded by St. Luke.

2. It was public.

3. It was predicted by Christ.

4. The promise of the Holy Spirit which was to follow it was fulfilled.

5. It formed a staple doctrine of apostolic teaching.

6. The Christian doctrine of heaven depends upon the fact that Christ ascended to the Father (John 14:1, etc.).

III. What follows from our Lord’s resurrection and ascension.

1. The glorified Christ has received a name that is above every name.

2. To this exalted Saviour all dominion is entrusted.

3. That dominion will be universally acknowledged (John 6:38-40; Revelation 1:7; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28).

IV. The ultimate end and aim of the Saviour’s mediatorial reign will be the glory of God the Father.

1. The Redeemer looked for this--“Father, glorify thy Son!” etc.

2. The mediatorial work was undertaken and discharged with reference to this. (C. Clemance, D. D.)

Christ’s exaltation

I. In the very fact of Christ’s exaltation there is to every true Christian a very large degree of comfort. He has certain features of character which make it so.

1. He has a relationship with Christ, and therefore feels an interest in the success of His kinsman.

2. He has a feeling of unity in the cause. He shares the exaltation in some degree, seeing that he has sympathy with Christ’s desire of promoting God’s cause in the world. Every soldier feels honoured when his general is applauded for the victory, inasmuch as he has helped him to gain it.

3. The Christian knows that there is a real union between Christ and His people, now, therefore, that our Head is crowned he cannot, being so intimately interested, but rejoice. Christ is in heaven as our representative. The throne He occupies is for the Church whom He represents. In Him we, too, are exalted.

4. The Christian has surrendered his whole being to the work of honouring Christ, and therefore feels that in his Saviour’s exaltation his whole desire is consummated. He cares not what happens to himself so long as he can say, “The Lord reigneth.”

II. Another well spring of joy is found in the reason of Christ’s exaltation. Because of--

1. His humiliation. The Christian need feel no pain in being humbled: the same joy is set before him as was set before his Lord.

2. His obedience. Let the Christian obey and he will win the same reward.

III. Another source of comfort is found in the person who exalted Him.

1. Neither Christ nor the Christian are self-crowned autocrats; and the same hand that crowned Him will crown us. He, “King of kings,” we “kings unto God and His Father.”

2. Man never exalted Christ, but dishonoured and rejected Him--but God exalted Him. Believer, if all men speak ill of thee, think “the servant is not above his Lord.”

3. Christ did not exalt Himself, nor can you in depression of spirits, humbleness of position, but God can and will. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Of Christ’s exaltation

I. The first step was his resurrection.

II. The second his ascension.

III. The third his sitting on the right hand of God (Hebrews 1:3; 1 Peter 3:22; Ephesians 1:20).

1. This is to be understood in a figurative sense as denoting--

2. Christ sitting here denotes--

3. It denotes--

4. The ends for which He sits.

5. Use.

IV. The last step is His coming to judge the world. (T. Boston, D. D.)

Christ’s exaltation

In the former verses the Sun of Righteousness is eclipsed; here He shines forth in all His strength and splendour. The doctrine of Christ’s humiliation leads you to Mount Calvary; but this doctrine leads you to Mount Olivet. There you may see Christ standing at the bar; here you see Him sitting on the throne.

I. The doctrine of Christ’s exaltation.

1. It pleased God that He who humbled Himself should be “made higher than the heavens,” that He who appeared as a servant should now appear as the Lord of Glory. The word “highly exalted” is emphatic and singular; His exaltation was super superlative. Jesus Christ in His resurrection was exalted; in His ascension “highly exalted;” in His sitting at the right hand of God “very highly exalted above all exaltation.” In His resurrection, He was exalted above the grave; in His ascension, above the earth; in His session, above the highest heavens. The steps of Christ’s exaltation answered the steps of His humiliation.

2. That God hath given Him a name that is above every name.

(a) Sometimes name is put for glory and renown (Genesis 6:4; 1 Chronicles 5:24, Hebrews); thus Christ is invested with the glory of the only begotten of the Father

(b) for the power and sovereignty by which Christ is King of nations and of saints (John 10:25; Acts 3:6; Acts 4:7). Of this He spake at the ascension (Matthew 28:18). And the glory of Christ’s name is such that shall be celebrated through all ages (Luke 2:10-14; Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 5:12).

(a) That Jesus should be the only Saviour of the world (Acts 4:11-12).

(b) In that He is exalted to sit at the right hand of God, which is a name or honour angels never had (Hebrews 1:3-4; Hebrews 1:13).

(c) Because it is through this name that the name of God becomes a comfort to us. The attributes of God are the “name of God.” To a Christless sinner all the attributes of God are against Him: wisdom (Jeremiah 17:10; 1 John 3:20); holiness (Habakkuk 1:13); justice; omnipotence. But the name of Christ makes the name of God a sanctuary (Proverbs 18:10), and a comfort: wisdom (Psalms 73:24; Matthew 6:32); holiness (1 Corinthians 1:10); justice (Romans 3:25-26; Romans 8:1); omnipotence (Romans 8:31).

(d) Because His name should be most precious and powerful in His Church through all generations (Matthew 18:20; John 14:13; 1 Corinthians 5:4; Matthew 28:19).

3. That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.

(a) All knees in heaven voluntarily.

(i) The good angels who always obeyed and honoured Christ (Daniel 9:24-25; Luke 1:30-31; Luke 2:13-14; Matthew 2:13; Matthew 4:11; Luke 22:43; Matthew 28:6; Acts 1:11; Hebrews 1:6; Matthew 25:31). All this service was performed unto Christ, not only as Creator (Colossians 1:16), but as Governor (Colossians 2:10; Ephesians 1:21-22).

(ii) The spirits of just men made perfect (Revelation 5:9-10; Revelation 4:8; Revelation 4:10).

(b) On earth

(i) good men willingly (Psalms 110:3). By nature they are children of disobedience (Colossians 3:6-7; Colossians 3:1; Colossians 3:21; Romans 8:7). But the grace of God removes that “iron sinew” (Isaiah 48:4).

(ii) Evil men under compulsion; because they do not willingly bear Christ’s yoke they shall become His footstool (Psalms 110:1).

(c) In hell (Luke 10:17; Luke 8:28-32; James 2:19; Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14).

4. That every tongue shall confess, etc.

(a) As Creator (1 Corinthians 8:6; Romans 11:36).

(b) As Son of God (Hebrews 1:2-4).

(c) As such He is a Lord to command us and to save us.

(a) Devils and wicked men (Revelation 6:14).

(b) Saints and angels (Revelation 5:12-13).

II. The end of Christ’s exaltation. As God had no motive without Himself, so He had no end beyond Himself in giving Christ (Ephesians 1:6). For this Christ prayed (John 12:28).

III. Application.

1. Use of information, as Christ first suffered and entered into His glory (Luke 24:26), even so must we (Acts 14:22; 2 Timothy 2:11).

2. Use of exhortation. Is Christ exalted? Then let us, our tongues, knees, hearts, lives, acknowledge Him to be our Lord.

(a) Christ is only a Saviour to those who submit to Him (Hebrews 5:9; Titus 2:11-12.

(b) Every knee must one day bow to Him.

(c) The sins of Christians are far greater than those of the Jews against Christ who sinned against Him in His state of humiliation (Hebrews 6:6). They did it in ignorance (Acts 3:17; 1 Corinthians 2:1).

(d) Christ at last will be too hard for the hardest-hearted sinner.

3. Use of comfort to believers.


Verse 10-11

Philippians 2:10-11

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow

Bowing at the name of Jesus

I.
To what period does the assertion refer.

1. Not the present, which would not be the fact, and besides the text is a prophecy. Many objects are now worshipped: riches, pleasure, etc.

2. At the judgment, when every usurper will be dethroned, and every rebel crushed.

II. The persons alluded to.

1. His willing and devoted servants.

2. Others will bow unwillingly.

III. The consequences of this event. Jesus will reign with undisputed sway.

1. Sin will be banished from His dominions.

2. There will be no more contention.

3. There will be no more weakness or sorrow.

4. There will be no more fear of death. (W. H. Davison.)

The supremacy of Christ

I. Is universal.

1. In heaven and on earth.

2. In the control of providence and grace.

3. In the administration of mercy and judgment.

II. Must be universally acknowledged.

1. By His enemies as by His friends.

2. To this end He is exalted at the right hand of God.

III. Secures the glory of God.

1. In the accomplishment of His purpose.

2. The revelation of His character.

3. The completion of His kingdom. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Christ’s claims

I. The claims of Christ upon our faith; submission; obedience; love.

II. His power to enforce them. He is exalted; as Lord of all.

III. The certainty of their final acknowledgment. Every knee shall bow, etc.; to the glory of God the Father. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The triumphs of Christ

Before many a Popish shrine on the continent one sees exhibited a great variety of crutches, together with wax models of arms, legs, and other limbs. These are supposed to represent the cures wrought by devotion at that altar; the memorials of the healing power of the saint. Poor miserable superstition all of it, and yet what a reminder to the believer in Jesus as to his duty and his privilege! Having pleaded at the feet of Jesus, we have found salvation; have we remembered to record this wonder of His hand? If we hung up memorials of all His matchless grace, what crutches, and bandages, and trophies of every sort should we pile together! (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Supreme King

At a missionary meeting on the Island of Raratonga, in the Pacific Ocean, an old man, who wished to join the Church, rose and said, “I have lived during the reign of four kings. In the first we were continually at war, and a fearful season it was watching and hiding with fear. During the reign of the second we were overtaken with a severe famine, and all expected to perish; then we ate rats and grass and this wood and that wood. During the third we were conquered, and became the peck and prey of the two other settlements of the island; then if a man went to fish he rarely ever returned, or if a woman went far away to fetch food she was rarely ever seen again. But during the reign of this third king we were visited by another King, a great King, a good King, a peaceful King, a King of love, Jesus, the Lord from heaven. He has gained the victory. He has conquered our hearts; therefore we now have peace and plenty in this world, and hope soon to dwell with Him in heaven.” (R. Brewin.)

Christ must be confessed

Victorinus, a teacher of rhetoric at Rome, was in his old age converted to Christianity, and came to Simplicianus, one eminent at that time for his piety, whispering in his ear softly these words, “I am a Christian;” but this holy man answered, “I will not believe it, nor count thee so, till I see thee among the Christians in the church,” at which he laughed, saying, “Do then those walls make a Christian? cannot I be such except I openly profess it, and let the world know the same?” This he said for fear, being yet but a young convert, though an old man; but some time after, when he was more confirmed in the faith, and had seriously considered that if he should continue thus ashamed of Christ, He would be ashamed of him at last, he changed his purpose, and came to Simplicianus, saying, “Let us go to the church, I will now in earnest be a Christian.” And there he made an open confession, observing that “as he had openly professed rhetoric, which was not essential to salvation, he ought not to be afraid to own the Word of God in the congregation of the faithful.” (W. H. Baxendale.)

We must speak for Christ

Of one of the statues in the Campanile, Florence, it is said that Donatello, when giving it the last stroke of his chisel, exclaimed, in enthusiastic admiration, “Speak!” So Christ, when He calls men from their sins and recreates them in His own image, says, “Tell what things God hath done for you.” (W. H. Baxendale.)


Verse 12-13

Philippians 2:12-13

Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling--Here is

I.
Hope for all.

II. Help for all.

III. Work for all.

IV. A kind word for all. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Salvation

I. Is your own concern.

1. Others may be solicitous about you.

2. You must bear the responsibility.

II. Demands effort.

1. It is not of works.

2. Yet it must be worked out.

III. Must be anxiously prosecuted.

1. With peaceful confidence in God.

2. Yet with fear and trembling. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The way of salvation

I. The invaluable blessing set before us.

1. The blessing itself--Salvation. What is that? Deliverance from sin. Had there been no sin there would have needed no salvation. But having sinned man has lost likeness to God, love for God, life with God, and he wants these restored. But he cannot get them back of himself. Christ, however, has secured them for him; deliverance

(a) Separation from God. Being saved from sin man has access to God.

(b) Eternal punishment.

2. Your interest in this salvation. You hear people say, “That is my own house, my own business,” and lay great emphasis on the “own.” And your own salvation has a peculiar emphasis connected with it. Christ’s salvation is a common salvation, and you do well to publish it; but what if heathens should possess it, and you through the want of it be lost.

II. The means of its attainment. “Work out,” etc.

1. Negatively: this does not mean--

2. Positively; it is--

III. The encouragement to use the means prescribed. Do not say, trembling soul, thou hast no strength, “I would work, but am so feeble.” Thy helper is God.

1. He works “to will.” He does not reform the natural faculty of the will; but sweetly and powerfully constrains that will by His Holy Spirit.

2. He works “to do.” Sometimes you have the will but not the strength. But as God works in us principles of action--faith, love, and regard for His glory--so when these principles are quickened and brought into practice, what cannot a man do? (J. Sherman.)

Your own salvation

Hearers often allege that preachers deal with subjects in which they have no interest, or with unpractical themes or with mysterious dogmas. No such charge can be preferred against this.

I. The matter under consideration. Salvation; which contains within it deliverance--

1. Prom the guilt of our past sins. This is a matter of grave consideration.

Nothing so much concerns any one as this.

II. Whose matter is it? “Your own.”

1. The sin you commit is your own and its condemnation. You may share in other men’s sins and they in yours; but a burden lies on you which no one can touch. You must obtain it, for this a personal pardon, or you are undone forever. You must yourself repent, believe, etc.

2. You must personally die, and in that dying we shall have either personal comfort or personal dismay. When death is past, salvation is still “our own.” There is a personal heaven for a personal believer. But if you have it not, it will be your own damnation. No one will be condemned for you. A substitute there is now, but not then.

3. You may be tempted to forget your own salvation by thoughts of other people. Reverse the process.

III. Answers to objections.

1. “Is it not all fixed? Don’t you believe in predestination? What have we then to do with our own salvation?” Is it not fixed whether you shall be nourished with food today or shall go hungry? Why then will you go home and eat your dinner? You do not reason so wickedly and foolishly about any other subject but this.

2. Do you not believe in full assurance? Yes, but presumption is not assurance, and the most fully assured are those who are most careful about their own salvation.

3. “This is very selfish.” Yes, but it is a selfishness that is needful before you can be unselfish. How can you be of any service to others if you are not saved yourself.

IV. Render some assistance. Ask yourself, “Am I saved?”

1. Does God work in you? Have you a work of the Holy Spirit in your soul? If so, you are saved.

2. Does your salvation rest wholly on Christ? If you are hanging on anything but the Cross you are deceived.

3. Have you turned your back on sin?

4. If not, “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” etc. (C. H. Spurgeon)

The working out of salvation

Salvation is founded on the mediation of Christ, but it is perfected by personal cooperation This is your own salvation, because--

I. It must be wrought out in yourself. It must have all the distinctiveness which pertains to individuality of character.

1. Its sphere is in the man. Christianity is not an outward application, but an inward work; not rites, etc., but life.

2. It is marked by attributes so distinct as to isolate it and make it our own. Every man has his own infirmities, and hence the work of grace differs in individuals.

II. It must be wrought out by yourself. The necessity of Divine influence is assumed--“It is God that worketh in you.” We cannot be too deeply conscious of our entire dependence; but we cannot be too much alive to our personal obligations. The latter will be the basis of the judgment. The ministry of the Word, etc., are highly important; but they must not be substitutes for personal Christianity.

III. It must be wrought out for yourself. Every Christian is now shaping the character of his salvation in the world to come where “everyone will receive,” etc. (J. E. M. A.)

The working out of salvation

I. The salvation which is to be wrought out. “Salvation” has two senses--deliverance, and a being raised to that state of holiness and happiness which God designs. In the text it includes both. Salvation was no: finished on the cross. It was not even secured; since something depends upon our own act. Salvation is a process. The first step is deliverance from blindness and insensibility; the second, from condemnation. Our salvation, then, proceeds into a state of entire conformity to the mind of Christ. Yet it supposes growth, even then. It is also preservation, every moment, from temptation, sloth, neglect, impatience, until at death the pure spirit is committed into the hands of the Father, and enters upon the perfect happiness of heaven.

II. The manner in which it is to be wrought out.

1. “Work” denotes a vigorous application of the mind to--

2. Salvation is to be worked out. By repentance and faith till justification and sanctification are secured. Our daily contests and attainments must be prosecuted till the conqueror be crowned.

3. With fear and trembling. Beware of the treachery of the heart. The number who have fallen; the immense stake at issue; the frown of God.

III. The encouragement.

1. This settles the disputed point of Divine help and human agency; not philosophically but practically. God does not so work in man as to render him a mechanical instrument; nor does man so work as that the work is attributed to his own powers.

1. A great part of the controversy respecting free will arises from not distinguishing between a power to will and the act of willing. That such a distinction is just, appears most clearly from God’s working in us “to do.” Now, it were absurd to say, God “does,” that is, prays, watches, and believes, for us; but He gives the power. It were equally absurd to say, God “wills” for us; but He gives the power to will; for He restores free agency. Again: If God necessitated our doing, He would not “work in us to do,” but by us to do; so, if He necessitated our will, he would work, not” in us to will,” but by us to will. The sense is, that He works in us that we may ourselves will and do.

2. God works in us to will. Several operations are necessary here. He enlightens the mind; impresses upon us the things that belong to our peace; and sets before us the motives which persuade the will. This, however, is not power to do. “To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” God strengthens us by the rich effusions of His blessed Spirit. He does not convey all power at once. Some degree of it is given, independently of ourselves. Afterwards, the power is increased according to our diligence, and faith, and improvement. What, then, is there that you cannot attain? “God worketh in you.”

3. Do you doubt of

Conclusion:

1. If you neglect your proper work, think not to blame God. He has both given and offered power.

2. If you have it not, you have not asked, or have not employed it.

3. In proportion as you are strengthened, you act. Live, then, near to God.

4. The glory of salvation is the Lord’s. You do nothing but in His power. (R. Watson.)

The working out of salvation

“Wherefore” links this passage to the whole picture from Philippians 2:6 to Philippians 2:11. Since the mind of Christ is revealed in His incarnation and death and is set before you as an example, work out, etc. Every Christian duty finds its motive and model in Christ. This counsel--

I. Implies--

1. That something has been already done. The very phrase “work out” implies this. Salvation has been begun, and is in one sense, a complete thing. We have not to work for salvation, but to accept it.

2. That something more has to be done. The new life has been created, but it must grow or it will die. What is more beautiful than the fervour and rapture of the first love, when young hearts turn to the Saviour as flowers to the light and find in Him their rest and their joy? But this first love may be forsaken. Character having greatly improved may deteriorate, and spiritual health may suffer a relapse. So we are reminded that we must not be merely passive in religion, receiving impressions, drinking in comfort, stimulated from without, but also to be active, cultivating our own powers.

II. This salvation is our own. Something essentially individual between each man and his God. In a sense it is the same in all, and yet it is different. God does not mean your nature to be a copy of any other. One man is impulsive, another is calm; one is bright, another gloomy; one is brave, another like a sensitive plant shrinking from even the breath of opposition. The experience of the gaoler was different from that of Lydia. So it is your own salvation and no one can work it out for you. The battlefield is your own soul, you have to pass through the great crisis of life alone, and you have to die alone.

III. How are we to work it out?

1. By the acquisition of spiritual truth. It is possible to have our Father’s phrases on our lips when we have not the power which lay behind them in our hearts. We are thankful for the wisdom and piety of the past, but a traditional faith will not save us; and while it is unwise to break away from the past, it is unequally unwise to reject the new truth that may be revealed to us. There will then be progress in character. The spiritual truth thus acquired will be the food of the soul.

2. By resolute effort. A man can never become wise or good without trouble. Jesus bids us “strive,” and Paul to “fight the good fight,” etc. It is not an easy thing to live the Christian life. The religion of sentimentalism, emotion, ritual, may be easy, but the religion of principle means cross bearing and earnest conflict with sin.

3. Even in the absence of means which are important. The presence of the apostle was a help. There is something in the presence of a friend which cannot be written with ink. The Philippians had done well in the apostle’s presence; they were to do much more in his absence. Why? To comfort him. As children when their father is from home are taking more care than usual that the windows and doors are properly fastened, so the Christians of Philippi were to be doubly vigilant when Paul was away. External aids are precious, but we must learn to be independent of them when necessary.

IV. The spirit in which we are to do the work--“with fear and trembling.” This Epistle is full of joy; but it is the joy of a reverent and earnest soul. There is abundant reason for caution, self-distrust, modesty, and humility, since so many have fallen, so many Peters denied their Lord, so many Demases forsaken Him. “Be not high minded, but fear.” (James Owen.)

The working out of salvation

I. A Christian man has his whole salvation already accomplished for him in Christ, and yet he has to work it out. Notice--

1. The persons to whom these words are addressed. Through applying them to non-Christians they have been perverted to mean: “You cooperate with Christ in the great work of salvation, and you will get grace and pardon.” But none save Christians have anything to do with them. They are addressed to those who are already resting on the finished salvation of Jesus Christ. If you have not done so, and are applying them to yourselves, remember that when the Jews came to Christ in a similar spirit, asking Him, “What shall we do?” etc. He said, “This is the work of God that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.” The first lesson is not work but faith, and unless there be faith no work.

2. But if salvation be this, How can we work it out? Salvation has four aspects. It means--

3. The two things, then, are not inconsistent. Work as well as believe, and in the daily subjugation of your spirits to His Divine power; in the daily crucifixion of your flesh; in the daily straining after loftier heights of godliness and purer atmospheres of devotion and love, make more thoroughly your own what you possess, work into the substance of your souls what you have.

II. God works all in us, and yet we have to work. Command implies power; command and power imply duty.

1. Is there any cautious guarding of the words that they may not seem to clash with the other side of truth? No. Paul does not say, “Yet” God worketh in you, or “although,” or “remember as a caution.” He blends the two together in an altogether different connection, and sees no contradiction or puzzle, but a ground of encouragement--“for” God worketh in you. That expresses more than bringing outward means to bear. It speaks of an inward, real, and efficacious operation. God puts in you the first faint motions of a better will. It is not that God gives men the power and leaves them to use it; that the desire and purpose come from Him, and are left with us as faithful or unfaithful stewards. The whole process, from the first sowing of the seed until its last fruiting in action, is God’s altogether.

2. And none the less strongly does He teach by His earnest injunction that human control over the human will and that reality of human agency, which are often thought to be annihilated by the view of God as originating all good. The apostle thought this doctrine did not absorb all our individuality in one great cause, which made men mere tools and puppets. His conclusion is God does all, therefore you work.

3. Each of these truths rests on its own appropriate evidence. My own consciousness tells me that I am free, that I have power, that I am therefore responsible. I know what I mean by the will of God, because I am myself conscious of a will. The power of God is an object of intelligent thought to me because I am conscious of power. On the other hand, that belief in God, which is one of the deep and universal beliefs of men, contains in it the belief in Him as the source of all power, who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will. These two convictions are both given us in the primitive beliefs which belong to us all. These two mighty pillars, on which all morality and all religion repose, have their foundations deep down in our nature, and tower up beyond our sight. They seem to stand opposite each other, but it is only as the piers of some tall arch are opposed. Beneath they repose on one foundation, above they spring together in the completing keystone, and bear the whole steady structure. Wise and good men have toiled to harmonize them in vain. Perhaps the time may come when we shall be lifted high enough to see the binding arch, but here on earth we can only behold the shafts on either side. Any fancied reconciliation only consists in paring down one half of the full-orbed truth to nothing, or admitting it in words, while every principle of the reeonciler’s system demands its denial. Each antagonist is strong in his assertions, and weak in his denials.

4. This apparent incompatibility is no reason for rejecting truths, each commended to our acceptance on their own proper grounds. The Bible admits and enforces both. God is all, but thou canst work. Take this belief that God worketh all in you as the ground of your confidence. Take this conviction that thou canst work for the spur and stimulus of your life.

III. The Christian has his salvation secured, and yet he is to fear and tremble. You may say, “Perfect love casteth out fear.” So it does: the fear that hath torment. But there is another fear and trembling which is but another shape of confidence and calm hope. Scripture does tell us that the believing man’s salvation is certain since he believes. And your faith can be worth nothing unless it have trembling distrust of your own power, which is the companion of all thankful and faithful reception of God’s mercy. Let, then, all fear and trembling be yours as a man; let all confidence and calm trust be yours as a child of God. Turn your confidence and your fears alike into prayer. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The working out of salvation

This work is a work--

I. In your own heart. To obey inwardly; to cherish and cultivate the good feelings which are now in you; to discipline your thoughts, rule your temper, keep your heart in order; to form right habits of daily life; to struggle against your besetting sin; to maintain a Christian spirit.

II. In the closet. Every one knows how difficult it is to fulfil faithfully the duties of private prayer, self-examination, and meditation; and to maintain the habit regularly, and to do it spiritually. To get rid of wandering thoughts; not to slide into reverie. To use form without formality. To make his own room a sanctuary, which he never leaves without carrying from it a holier frame and a higher aim.

III. In your own sphere. In the family and in business.

IV. In the work outside. No Christian should be without some definite form of Christian work. It may be among the poor, with the sick, or in the Sunday school, etc. In so doing you are working out the salvation you have received. Conclusion: Have you been saved? Then save! Are you loved? Then love! Are you happy? Then make others happy! (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The working out of salvation

Note--

I. That great and important truth which ought never to be out of our remembrance. “It is God that worketh in us,” etc., i.e., “It is of His good pleasure,” etc. This removes all imagination of merit from man, and gives God the whole glory of His work. The expression means either--

1. “To will,” including the whole of inward; “to do,” the whole of outward religion.

2. “To will,” implying every good desire; “to do,” whatever results therefrom, i.e., God worketh all inward and outward holiness, or God breathes every good desire and brings it to good effect. The original seems to favour the latter; but either is destructive of pride.

II. If God worketh in you then work out your own salvation. “Work out” implies the doing of a thing thoroughly; “your own,” you must do it or it will be left undone forever.

1. Salvation

2. How are we to work out this salvation? This is explained by that other passage in which Paul exhorts servants to obey their masters according to the flesh, “with fear and trembling,” a proverbial expression! which cannot be under stood literally. For what master could bear, much less require, his servant to stand quaking before him? And the words following utterly exclude this meaning (Ephesians 6:5, etc.). They imply--

3. What are the steps in this working?

III. What connection is there between the former and latter part of this sentence? Is there not a fiat opposition? If God worketh in us, is not our working impracticable and unnecessary? No.

1. God worketh in you, there fore you can work: otherwise it would be impossible. We know that the word is absolutely true, “Without Me ye can do nothing;” but it is equally true that “I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me.”

2. God worketh in you, therefore you must work. You must be workers together in Him, or He will cease working. “Unto him that hath shall be given; but from him that hath not”--that doth not improve the grace already given--“shall be taken away what he assuredly hath.” He will not save us unless we “save ourselves from this untoward generation,” unless we labour to “make our calling and election sure.” (J. Wesley, M. A.)

The working out of salvation

I. The end to be attained. Salvation.

1. Pardon.

2. Sanctification.

3. Eternal life: the whole benefits of redemption.

II. This end is only to be attuned by working. This teaches--

1. Negatively

2. Positively.

(a) The work of Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King.

(b) The work of the Holy Ghost.

(c) The efficacy of the means of grace, none of which are to be neglected.

III. The encouragements.

1. That God can, does, and will aid us.

2. That this aid is not merely outward, giving us the means and opportunity, but inward and efficacious, giving us strength and will.

3. There is, therefore, a divine consensus, a cooperation promised, analogous to the working of God in nature, and in those cases in which He gave strength to the palsied or the lame.

4. This Divine cooperation is congruous to the nature of the soul.

5. As it is absolutely necessary it should be sought and relied on. (C. Hedge, D. D.)

The working out of salvation

I. Man’s part in salvation--i.e., the Christian man’s, for the unregenerate have no spiritual germ to work out. We must work energetically--“energize, for it is God who energizes in you.” We must act as though everything depended on our own personal efforts. This includes--

1. Untiring diligence, improving every moment; making the best use of every opportunity.

2. Thoroughness, wholeness. Half work will not do (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Mind, heart, body.

3. Fortitude. We must work undaunted by difficulty (Acts 20:23-24).

4. With fear and trembling (Ephesians 6:5). The fear that is begotten by the anxiety to please.

II. God’s part.

1. “God worketh,” which supplies--

2. How does God work?

3. God works in us to will and to do of His good pleasure. He does this that He may accomplish His gracious purpose in the salvation of mankind--“for God willeth all men to be saved.” (D. R. Jenkins.)

Salvation worked out

I. What is supposed in the command.

1. That we, while in our natural state, are lost creatures, liable to perish forever. Our being bid to work out our salvation, supposing this to be our antecedent condition, may well keep us humble as long as we live.

2. That there is a way open by which we may be delivered from that condition, for we had never been enjoined thus had we been doomed to perish (verses 6-8; John 3:16).

3. That God is very desirous of their salvation to whom this command is sent (2 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 33:11).

II. What is included in the salvation we are to work out. Considering ourselves--

1. As fallen creatures, our first work is to get our state changed, and not to rest satisfied till we are restored to the favour and image of God. Here our salvation in the application of it begins. And with what earnestness should it be laboured after by every one who loves his safety.

2. In a state of grace, but as yet imperfect in attainments. The work of our salvation includes the mortifying of the remains of our corruption in us, the resisting of temptations, the making additions to grace received, and our pressing on to glory. And how much has a Christian to do, as to all these? (2 Peter 1:10; Philippians 3:12-14).

3. As mortal and dying out of the world, the work of salvation includes our preparing for a removal from it, and laying up treasure in another.

III. What is implied in being bid to work this out, and the manner in which it is to be done. That it is a work--

1. In which the soul is to be engaged. Bodily service profiteth nothing alone.

2. In which we are to engage with the greatest intentness.

3. In which the utmost watchfulness is necessary, considering the deceitfulness of the heart, the temptations of Satan, the instances of many who have miscarried.

4. In which the appointed means are to be employed.

5. In which we are to persevere, as he only who endures to the end will be saved.

IV. God works in us.

1. It is God who works in us to will and to do.

(a) He touches and turns the will, and by His renewing grace brings His people to love and choose what they previously disliked, and thus He of unwilling makes them willing (Ezekiel 36:26).

(b) He excites that grace which He implants, and thus both the disposition and the act is owing to influence from heaven (Song of Solomon 1:4). As to His method, usually God--

(i) Opens their souls to their lost and miserable state (John 16:8).

(ii) He holds their thoughts close to what is thus discovered as matter of the highest moment, not to be made light of as heretofore.

(iii) By such discovery and view our impression is made upon the conscience, so that the sinner can no longer rest in his present state.

(iv) The awakened sinner is led to importunately inquire what he must do to be saved (Acts 2:30; Acts 16:36).

5. The inquirer is reasonably instructed in the gospel method of salvation (John 3:16).

6. Salvation being represented as attainable the sinner under Divine influence is led to desire, hope, choose, believe.

2. God works of His good pleasure.

V. The force of the reason, from such a representation of the divine influence, to quicken and engage us to set about our part with the utmost diligence.

1. What reason have we from God’s working in us to excite ourselves to work out our salvation. It makes it--

2. We are to work because of the manner of God’s working, viz., His good pleasure.

Application:

1. Behold the folly of sin.

2. See the mercy of God.

3. How unreasonable despair.

4. How inexcusable the finally lost. (D. Wilcox.)

Salvation worked out

I. What abe we to understand here by salvation?

1. Freedom from our misery.

2. Advancement to happiness:

II. What by working out?

1. Our making use of all the means appointed by God for this end (Matthew 6:33).

2. Continuing the use of them until we have attained the end (Acts 13:43; Romans 12:12).

III. What by fear and trembling?

1. Not with pride (1 John 1:8).

2. Nor presumption (Psalms 19:13).

3. Nor carnal security (1 Peter 5:8).

4. But with a holy fear.

Salvation worked out

I. The one great thing which a man hath to do is to work out his own salvation. To clear up the nature of this work, consider--

1. It is not to be done by the way, but with all our might (Ecclesiastes 9:10; 2 Peter 1:10).

2. All our other works are to be referred to this (1 Corinthians 10:31).

3. We cannot do it by our own strength (Jeremiah 10:23; 2 Corinthians 3:5). Why, then, doth God command us to do it?

II. How doth it appear that this is the work we ought to do?

1. This is the end of our continuance on the earth.

2. God calls on us to do it (Ezekiel 33:11), and commands (Acts 17:30).

3. He hath shown us how to do it (Micah 6:8).

4. He hath offered us the means (Jeremiah 7:25).

5. He hath promised to enable us in the use of those means to do it (Matthew 18:20).

6. All His providences tend to it (Job 36:8-10).

7. And so do His ordinances.

III. How must we do this work?

1. Begin it

2. Repentance; consisting in

(a) Original (Psalms 51:5);

(b) actual (Psalms 51:3-4); in our thoughts (Genesis 6:5); affections (2 Timothy 3:3-4); words (Matthew 12:36); actions.

(c) Habitual (Jeremiah 13:23).

(a) Cordial (Joel 2:13).

(b) Universal (Ezekiel 9:4).

(c) Exceeding all other sorrow (Zechariah 12:10-11).

(a) Assenting to the Scripture in general (Acts 24:14; 2 Timothy 3:16), viz., that the assertions are all truths (Hebrews 6:18); that the history is certain; the commands Divine (Romans 7:12-14); the promises performed; the threatenings executed.

(b) Assenting to the gospel in particular, viz., that Christ is the Son of God; truly man; the promised Messiah; the only Saviour; our meritorious substitute; our prevailing intercessor.

(c) Applying these truths to ourselves (James 2:19); that He is our Lord and God (John 20:28); our Saviour and Redeemer; our Advocate (Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1).

2. We must carry on this work--

3. We must finish this work (John 17:4).

IV. Set upon this work. Consider--

1. This is the work you came about.

2. You have comfort of no other works (Romans 6:21).

3. All other works are sin till this be set about (Proverbs 15:8; Proverbs 21:4; Proverbs 12:27; Isaiah 66:3).

4. Till this be done, ye are incapable of any mercy (Matthew 2:2).

5. Subject to all misery--

6. Even in this life this is the best work--

(a) Here we exercise our best parts (Matthew 9:29).

(b) Set them on their proper objects.

(c) Employ them to their proper end.

(a) As the persons we converse with.

(b) As to the employment itself.

(a) the most real riches (Proverbs 23:5; Luke 8:18).

(b) Most satisfying (Isaiah 55:1-2).

(c) Most lasting (1 Timothy 6:17).

7. All the power we have of doing anything was given us to do this.

8. Unless this work is done we are undone forever (Luke 13:3).

9. If this be done, we shall be happy.

V. Objections.

1. I have no time.

2. We know not how to do this work. I have told you.

3. It is hard work.

4. I have done it already.

(a) Hast thou no sin to be repented of (Ecclesiastes 7:20);

(b) no lust to subdue (Romans 7:24);

(c) no grace to get quickened (Philippians 3:11-12).

5. Time enough hereafter. No, the best time is now (John 9:4). (Bishop Beveridge.)

Working out what is worked in

I. The matter to be worked out.

1. Your own salvation. Charity must begin at home. You ought to spread the truth, but you must first understand it. Ploughing another man’s field, don’t neglect your own; indicating to another the mote in his eye, do not permit a beam to blind your own.

2. What is to be worked out must first be worked in. An unconverted man can work nothing out, for there is nothing in. You have faith; work it out then; act like a believer; trust God in daily life. Be you Christlike, inasmuch as the Spirit of Christ dwells in you.

3. Salvation is to be worked out. Holiness is salvation. We are not to work out our salvation from the guilt of sin; Christ has done that, but from the power of sin. God has in effect worked that in; He has broken the yoke of sin; it lives and struggles, but it is dethroned, and our life is to keep it down. A man may be saved from the guilt of sin, and yet not saved from the power of pride or bad temper. Your salvation is not complete till you are saved from these. You must fight them till you conquer.

II. The model to be worked to.

1. Every artist requires some idea in his mind to which he is to work. The apostle’s model is exhibited in the context.

III. The spirit in which this is to be worked out.

1. An energetic spirit. From the Greek word “work” we get our word energy. The bringing out of the new nature requires this, inasmuch as it is a mark of superlative difficulty. God works in, therefore we must work out. The assistance of Divine grace is not given to put aside our own efforts, but to assist them.

2. With fear to offend so good a God of which we read, Blessed is the man who feareth always.

3. With trembling. Before the Lord we do not tremble with affright, but with holy awe, lest we should sin and grieve the Spirit.

IV. The sweet encouragement the text affords. Here is--

1. Help

2. God works in us to will--gives us the desire for holiness, the resolution to put down sin, the stern resolve not to fall into sin again, and He who gave the desire will surely finish it.

3. God does not leave you then; He gives you the power to do, to achieve the victory; therefore fear not.

4. That which He works in you is pleasing in His sight. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Man working and God working

I. We must work out our own salvation.

1. We must be personally active. Salvation cannot be wrought otherwise.

2. This activity must amount to vigorous, sustained working. No excellence anywhere without it.

3. This activity is to be centred on our own salvation.

II. God worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure.

1. As the first clause seems to throw the work wholly on man, this seems to throw it entirely on God

2. He regulates inclination and action--the motive and the deed.

3. This He does benevolently.

III. The consistency of these propositions. Salvation is of God as respects supreme agency, while our part in it is merely instrumental and subordinate. The atonement is the whole ground of our acceptance. God the Holy Spirit works in us, enabling us to believe the gospel, and purifying our heart by faith. He, however, does not work separately from us, nor control and compel. We, too, are occupied. He works by us as well as in us.

IV. The obligation resulting from a collective view of the case to prosecute the undertaking with fear and trembling. The propriety of doing so appears--

1. From the importance of the work. In small matters men are at ease. There is not enough to engage fully the mind. But no work in its character and issues can compare with this.

2. From the character of the Agent working in us. In conclusion: this subject is

Divine influence and mans’ duty

I. The doctrine of divine influence in the application of redemption. The exercise of this influence is--

1. Sovereign and free. God’s self-existence and independence render it impossible that He should be subject to foreign control, or to any considerations but those that are suggested by His own mind. But His proceedings are not arbitrary or capricious. His reasons are always the wisest, best, and most benevolent.

2. Secret, imperceptible, and only to be discovered by its effect. With what rapidity does He wheel the earth round its axis, and carry it in its annual revolution; and these movements could never have been discovered but by careful observation. When at the approach of spring the fields are arrayed in their beautiful vesture, you cannot see God raising the sap through root and fibre, along stem and branch, and unfolding each bud and blossom. So in salvation. No shout of angelic hosts announces that God has commenced operations; and though we know there is joy in their presence, we can only see the ground of their joy in individual repentance. While the world is stunning us with its noise, and the Christian labourer may be complaining, “Who hath believed our report?” God may be quietly inspiring multitudes to ask, “What must I do?” etc.

3. Mighty. God’s system of operations is no languid series of efforts. The same expression is used with reference to the Divine power which raised Christ from the dead, and which binds all things in the universe to work according to the purpose of His own will. This same power is exerted in our recovery.

4. In conformity with the principles of our nature. God always adapts His procedure to the nature of the objects on which He works. You may produce considerable alteration by culture, soil, and climate, but you can never change the distinctive properties of one animal or plant for those of another. So in salvation our faculties remain as they were; but we have new aims, inclinations, purposes, and pursuits.

5. The tendency and aim of the Divine influence.

II. The duty imposed by this doctrine. “Work out your,” etc. We have here a summons.

1. To begin in the work. Men say, “Why trouble ourselves; until God stretch forth His hand and break the chain of our sins, it would be useless for us to make the attempt.” This is to pervert the grace of God to our sure destruction, and to turn into an argument for indolent indifference the most powerful incentive to exertion. The Bible brings Christ’s message to men. It beseeches universal acceptance. With the external message the dispensations of providence have concurred to warn off the folly and peril of delay, and to urge instant acceptance.

2. To carry on the work. It is not enough to begin the course; we must persevere. And there is much to be worked out: love of sin, evil habits have to be extirpated, the love of God to be intensified, closer conformity to our great Pattern to be attained. The consideration that God worketh in you leaves you without excuse for negligence and without ground for despondency.

3. The work is to be carried out with fear and trembling; with the reverence and godly fear which love inspires--“With that man will I dwell who is of a humble and contrite spirit,” etc. (R. Redpath, M. A.)

Divine grace and human endeavours

I. Human agency in things which concern salvation.

II. Divine agency.

1. Its reality.

2. Its necessity.

3. Its source--the Divine will. God works because “of His good pleasure.” He chooses to work.

4. Its effect. God works in His people.

III. The connection between the two. Both are matter of fact, and must be believed as facts whatever may be our opinion of their relation.

2. A knowledge of the point is unattainable, since it is none other than the manner in which the Infinite mind acts on created minds. We have three sources of knowledge.

3. But while we know nothing of the internal working of the Infinite mind, we know something of the methods. God’s gracious influence on the soul very much consists in His causing clear and realizing apprehensions of things as they are to abide in the mind. For this purpose He removes hindrances which prevent Divine truth from being known and considered, and consequently from yielding its appropriate fruit.

1. Examination. We may learn from it whether our creed and our practice in relation to the topics discussed are scriptural or erroneous.

2. Encouragement to those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, but are conscious of their moral weakness. The very desire is a proof that God has done much for you, and a pledge that He will do more. (G. Burder, M. A.)

The law of spiritual interaction

I. The nature of salvation. It is something to be worked out, a moral process in man himself. On the one hand it is the overcoming and casting out of evil, and on the other the assimilation and development of good. It is restoration from disease to health. The man who is undergoing salvation is both cured and nourished. This is the result of the joint work of God and man--man being able to do his part because God works, and God’s working requiring man’s work.

II. Paul’s putting of the matter is in perfect agreement with the scientific law that growth and development are dependent on the due interaction between the thing that has to grow and a fitting environment. To this biological law all living things are subject. Take, e.g., a corn of wheat: until it is acted on by a fitting environment it can neither grow nor produce fruit. The grains of wheat found in Egyptian mummies might have been thought dead. Yet no sooner were they sown in appropriate soil than they began to grow, simply because they were duly acted on by a fitting environment. Some of them, while the same in appearance with the rest, were dead; they rotted and disappeared because they were incapable of reacting in response to their environment. The first movement proceeds from the surroundings; then follows the response of the germ. Or take our body. Unless we are blessed with sunshine, breathe pure air, eat nourishing food, etc., we can neither develope, nor retain our health. The same principle holds good in disease. A cure depends on proper action from without by medicine or diet. If there is nothing in them to affect our condition, we go from bad to worse, and if our condition is so bad that the medicine works no responsive action, our case is equally hopeless.

III. What is the real significance of this interaction? Is the organism pushed like a ball set in motion? No. Our environment acts on us by becoming food to us, and light, air, heat, as well as bread and water, are food. And food feeds us by becoming one with us, and energizing in us. “They work in you to will and to do.” But the power in the food cannot become ours without our effort. We must at least be able to digest. If we cannot do that the most nutritious food will not save us from death. Here again we may say, “Work physically, for it is food that worketh,” etc. The same with medicine. Our phrase is, “Has it begun to work?” But the entire man is subject to this great law, man not only as a physical but as a spiritual being.

IV. God is the ultimate environment of our spiritual nature, as light and air and food to our body. Therefore, unless He act upon us it is impossible that we should act, nor can His action have any result unless we respond and cooperate. And He does not merely influence us from without, give us commands or present motives; He enters and His energy becomes ours, in virtue whereof we cart will or do. But we must lay hold of Him and assimilate His energy. God can no more become our spiritual light, life, and strength without receptive action than undigested bread can be the staff of life.

V. That which is true of the spiritual life in general is emphatically true of it as enfeebled and darkened by sin. Unless God come to our help the weakness and darkness cannot be overcome; but equally hopeless is our case unless we receive His help. If we are so far gone in moral corruption that no function of our spiritual being can come into action, anything that God does will no mere avail us than light and water a plant that has withered. God must interfere, and we must open our nature to His influences. He moves first, but there must be a corresponding movement on our side. What is this but what Paul says in the text.

VI. We are so constituted by God that we cannot be spiritually healthy without Him. This always was, is, and will be the case. Man’s moral weakness and corruption are rooted in the refusal to let God work in him, in the resolve to be self-sufficient. Man without God is like an organism without nourishment. What a starving man is such is the spiritual man without God. Now suppose you went to relieve such a starving man, and he were to say, “I cannot accept your food till I am stronger,” you would exclaim, “How can you expect to be strong without food? Can you feed on yourself?” No less absurd is our behaviour in regard to salvation. God is waiting to do His part. You, also, in secret, want to do yours, but you cannot without Him. VII. Those who have begun to work out their salvation find that their only salvation is in God. It is not merely that He must help you now and then. Continuous trust and fellowship are the only safety. (Principal Simon.)

The Christian work--First part

I. The duty--“Work.” The estate of a Christian is a working not idle estate. Christianity is not verbal profession nor speculative (John 13:17).

1. Works of preparation are those that prepare men to believe, as hearing, reading, meditating.

2. From these a Christian ought to proceed to--

3. The use of all this is to give us a right conceit of religion. Many are good talkers, and yet never come one step towards salvation.

II. The right manner of performing the duty.

1. Obediently. “As ye have obeyed.” Whatever we do it must be in obedience to God. Then

2. Sincerely. “Whether I am present or not.” God sees you. The Pharisees obeyed to be seen of men (Matthew 6:2; Matthew 6:6). Joash was a good king as long as Jehoida lived; but a good Christian is ever good, in all places, occasions, companies.

3. Laboriously. “Work out.” No perfunctory thing can please God.

4. Constantly--not like morning dew, or Lot’s wife who turned back (Luke 1:75; John 17:4; 2 Timothy 4:7-8). To this end--

5. It must tend to salvation. We must go on in a constant course of goodness that we may come to the end of our faith. For salvation is begun here, and the state of grace here is called salvation, even as well as the state hereafter. All conclusions are to be reduced to their principles, and so all is to be reduced to salvation as the mare principle. Do we sanctify all things by prayer (Colossians 3:24).

III. The motives to this duty.

1. The example of Christ. “Wherefore.” Christ did all in obedience to God, etc.

2. The apostle’s love. Christians should take good courses, that they may comfort those that are good.

3. The possibility of it. You have gone so far; keep on.

4. The end. Salvation. Considering we are not yet perfect, we are encouraged to go on to perfection (Titus 2:11; Hebrews 11:26).

IV. The spirit in which it is to be done.

1. Fear is an affection planted by God in our natures, whereby we, foreseeing dangers which may hinder our being or well being, are afraid of them. This is a spiritual fear.

2. God loves not the careless Christian.

3. All things must be done in this fear, or we shall come short of our salvation.

Second part

I. The Christian hath a will and a power to do good.

II. This power we have not from ourselves but from God. Some things are done for us which were neither wrought by us nor in us, e.g., Christ’s death. Some things are wrought in us not by us, as our first work of conversion. Other things are wrought in us, and by us, such as all good works after conversion. The will is wrought in us by God as we be His temples, and the deed is wrought by us as instruments of God’s inward working.

III. This work of God in us is a powerful work. He gives to us to will that which He wills.

IV. This work is inward, not without. He uses exhortations, etc., but He puts power to these to prevail.

V. The perfection of this work (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). (R. Sibbes, D. D.)

Practical religion

I. The practical element in religion.

II. The emotional element--“With fear and trembling.”

1. This is not slavish, but reverential fear.

2. We should have “fear and trembling.”

III. The supernatural element”--“It is God that worketh,” etc. (A. J. Furman.)

The two-fold force in salvation

This sentence falls from Paul as easy and natural as his breath. It is a casual remark, true, but not combating any specific error; a simple exhortation to earnestness, with the assurance of Divine cooperation. But what Paul said in this casual way has been caught up by opposing schools, turned to a use he never dreamed of, crowded with a meaning he did not intend, made the rallying cry of theological champions, and a very body of divinity. Arminian and Calvinist have seized it, cut it in two, emphasized each his own word in it according to his philosophy, and thus equipped fought each other for two hundred years over a doctrine of faith and works. The text teaches--

I. That salvation is an achievement. What is here meant by salvation.

1. Negatively.

2. Positively. It is a moral process in which time and effort are chief factors.

II. This achievement is the result of sharp and definite strife.

1. Every man is bound by every consideration to undertake this work. He is here to do this very thing.

2. When he comes upon the stage he finds evil, and his work is to east it out and bring in good. No evil goes out of itself. No nation and no man ever grew into virtue or dropped evil as a tree drops dead leaves.

3. Look at the world and its history--tell me if a single gain has been made that did not turn on the overthrow of some positive evil with pain and effort.

4. Let every man ask himself, Am I saving myself? I am ignorant, etc. I find in myself hereditary evil. I have contracted evil habits. I am passing on from day to day without communion with God, doing nothing for humanity. Am I striving to escape from that broad road to destruction?

III. The two-fold process. Work it out, for God works it in.

1. No other influence can touch a man like God’s. When I give you my hand it is in part my strength that upholds you. When you cheer me I am leaning on your inspiration. But when God works in a man to will and to work, the union of wills is so close, that separate threads of influence cannot be detected. It often hurts a man to be helped by others; it never hurts him to be helped by God.

2. The importance of this two-fold process.

3. Now suppose again the reunion of God and man in the work of salvation. When a man recognizes that God is at the bottom of all his work, he is led straight up to the exercise of every element of His character. Then he becomes reverent, and reverence is one half of character. Along with this comes humility--the soil of all the virtues. And as the man comes more and more to feel that God is in him he is swept into the current of God’s own thought and feelings, and so he loves as God loves; and all the patience, tenderness, truth, and majesty of God work in him, subduing him into their quality. (T. T. Manger.)

God works

I. Secretly--“in you.”

II. Mediately--by His Word.

III. Mightily--by His Spirit.

IV. Graciously--Of His good pleasure.

V. Effectually--to will and to do. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Salvation a work

The word γαζεσθαι, “to apply oneself to,” properly signifies to do, to work, to labour, and is taken in two ways in the Scripture; sometimes to express to polish, form, and fashion a rough and raw thing, as when a carpenter cuts and polishes wood, and a mason stones, which they desire to employ in their work; and in this sense we may say that God makes us when He creates us in His Son, stripping us of this vile and miserable form of sinners and slaves of Satan, in which we are born, and giving us another, holy and glorious, by which we become His children, precious and lively stones, and fit to enter into the building of His temple, from vile and dead stones, which we were by nature. The other, more common, signification of this word is, to accomplish, perfect, and finish a thing already commenced, to execute it and guide it to its end; as when the apostle says, in Romans 7:18, that “to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not;” and when he says besides, in Romans 4:1-25, it “worketh wrath,” because it completes in us the feeling of the wrath of God against sin, which without is weak and languid, the light of nature alone without the law only exciting and beginning it in us. (J. Daille)

Salvation worked in and out

A clock presents a beautiful emblem of Christianity. When in good order it is always going, and one wheel propels another and even so must true Christianity be in continual exercise, and every act of godliness make way for the next. As a clock, however, needs to be constantly inspected, and frequently set and cleaned, so God, in His faithfulness and long suffering, has continual work to do, amending, purifying, and regulating our Christianity. (T. H. Leary, D. C. L.)

The working out of salvation gradual

A man’s salvation is to be wrought out as an artist works out a picture. It is a good thing for a man to make a charcoal sketch; but it will not do to stop at that. It is a good thing that refers to something better that is coming on. He may put in the dead colours, and so make an advance, but it is not an advance which fits the picture to be put up in a gallery for admiration. He may add particular features, and thus make a further advance; but suppose a man were painted perfectly up to his nose, and all the rest were left blank, what sort of a picture would he make? Suppose one of a man’s eyes were accurately painted, and the other were all blurred, what would be the effect? Things are good according as they conform to an ideal in the line of progress or development. So whatever tends to educate a man’s conscience, to unfold his reason, to enlarge his moral sensibilities, to fill him with the graces of the Spirit, is beneficial; a benefit in that direction may be called works--not condemned works, but works that are efficacious. (H. W. Beecher.)

The publicity of a worked-out salvation.

You are to work it out. It must be presented to the eye; it is not to be like the works of a watch that are elaborately finished and then concealed in a case. The words imply that there is something in the Christian’s heart has to be brought out, and that only work can develope it. A mechanic takes a bar of iron. He knows there is brightness in its nature, so he places it in his lathe, and by means of cutters, files, and other instruments the black or rusty bar is made so bright that it dazzles the eye with its shining surface. And there is that in the heart of every Christian which worked out would delight all that knew him. “Let your light so shine,” etc. (D. R. Jenkins.)

Man’s work an evidence of his salvation

William Wickham being appointed by King Edward to build a stately church, wrote in the windows, “This work made William Wickham.” When charged by the king for assuming the honour of that work to himself as the author, whereas he was only the overseer, he answered that he meant not that he made the work, but that the work made him, having before been very poor, and then in great credit. Lord, when we read in thy Word that we must work out our own salvation, thy meaning is not that our salvation should be the effect of our work, but our work the evidence of our salvation. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The difficulty of working out our salvation

Like the man in the old heathen fable, condemned to roll a ball up a steep hill, no sooner do we gain a step, than sin tries by its own weight to roll down again and drag us with it. Like our countrymen at the heights of the Alma, the repentant Christian has to force his way upwards to the skies in the face of enemies already entrenched in strong position in his heart, and like them he can only ensure success by the exercise of a vigorous will, assisted in the spiritual warfare by Him who is “mighty to save.” (G. Huntington, M. A.)

Work out your own salvation

Cast a sponge into water, and, the fluid filling its empty cells, it swells out before our eyes; increases more and more. There is no effort here, and could be none; for though once a living animal, the sponge is now dead and dry. But it is not as sponges fill with water, nor, to use a Scripture figure often employed, and sometimes misapplied, as Gideon’s fleece was filled with daws, that God’s people are replenished with His grace. More is needed than simply to bring ourselves in contact with ordinances; to read the Bible; to repair on Sabbath to the Church; to sit down in communion seasons at the Lord’s table. The babe, for example, is laid in a mother’s arms, and in contact with her breast; but is laid there only to die, unless, with slumbering instincts awakened, it fastened and suck by its own efforts the nourishment provided for it, independent of itself; and there, drawing life from a mother’s bosom, it lies in her loving arms, the symbol of him who hangs by faith in Christ, and, fed on the sincere milk of the word, is nourished up into the likeness and image of God. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

The motive for this work

Just as the same electricity that flashes like an avenging sword from the cloud, and that lightens from one side of heaven to the other, also trembles in the dew drop, and flies along the wire, carrying news from one continent to another: so the Divine Power that binds all holy beings in chains of loyalty and love to the throne of the eternal, and that breaks the bond of our captivity, and raises us to a state of spiritual enlargement and fellowship, also enables us to discharge the smallest duties and the common daily responsibilities of the Christian life. “Christ is all, and in all,” in every duty, in every service. (James Owen.)

Salvation to be worked out with fear and trembling

The face of the helmsman in coming down the rapids of the St. Lawrence in the great vessel is a sight to see. He takes in, as it were, all the conditions of the case, in one inevitable glance--the bank; the bend; the shallowing or deepening bed; the amount of way on the vessel; the hurry of the waters; the calm spread of the deep river lying like a peaceful haven yonder in the distance! There he stands--fearful, yet firm--distrustful, yet confident--until the danger is past. With a similar feeling--not slavishly afraid--but intent, earnest, bending all the powers in concentrated effort towards the ultimate object--so “work out your salvation.” (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

We must fear and tremble because of the preciousness of salvation, and because of the cooperation of omnipotence

Did you ever have committed to your care something exceedingly rare and precious; something of singular beauty or untold value? Did you ever come into the possession of something long and ardently desired, which you had thought to be too good, too sweet, too lovable ever to be really yours, your very own? Was not there an awe, almost a terror in the sense of that possession? Did you not say to yourself, “Who am I that I should have this? What if I should let it drop? What if I should lose it?” Did not the very joy make you “afraid” and your happiness make you “tremble”? There is another cause of “fear” and “trembling!” You are working with Omnipotence, it is an awful thing working with God! What a responsibility! What a position for a man, a poor sinner, to be in! “What if my shortcomings and sins should deprive me at last of that friendship, and turn His very kindness into a curse! The thought may well make me ‘fear and tremble!’“ And how tremendous is the issue at stake! To have been once saved; to have stood on that high and blessed position; to have tasted that peace, and then to lose it all! Oh! what bitter self-reproach forever! What a wrong done to my own dear kind Saviour! What an aggravation to my time of misery! (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

God working in us

Sunlight is universal; it shines everywhere; but when you bring it to bear upon your plants in greenhouses you specialize it. The black Hamburg grape you cannot raise out of doors, although there is sunlight there. You build glass houses; you so arrange them that the sun’s rays fall upon the vines; you secure the conditions required for their growth, and the consequence is Chat you have fruit. You specialize the sunlight by the skill of the gardener. There are certain latitudes in which given results cannot be obtained by sunlight without specializing it. The Divine influence is diffused upon the good and the bad alike, just as sunlight is; but when men understand it and accept it by the force of their own will, putting themselves in the line of God’s nature, it becomes special to them, and works in them both to will and to do of God’s good pleasure. The Divine influence is to the human will what the atmosphere is to the eye and to the ear, and what that which is taken into the mouth is to the tongue. If it were not for the atmosphere and its vibrations the eye would perish; it would have nothing to do; for although it is an organ for seeing, it cannot see in and of itself. The ear is an organ for hearing, but the ear cannot hear of itself. It must have outside pulsations beating upon it. The tongue cannot taste unless it has something of which to taste. When a seed is planted in good soil it is given over to the sun; and when the sun undertakes to care for a plant it always keeps its eye on the blossom and the fruit which it is to unfold. It is not enough that it develops stem, branches, and flowers. The tendency of the sun is to bring everything up to its ultimate consummation. So the tendency of the Divine Spirit is to draw men up steadily through the whole range of their faculties till they blossom. (H. W. Beecher.)

Divine energy an incentive to human

Suppose that you were involved in temporal difficulties, that a benevolent friend came forward to pay your debts, and place you in a better position than you had ever occupied, would you argue, “Well, I need not care how wasteful I become, or how heavy the demands which he may meet; he has enough and to spare. As his heart overflows with benevolence, I will leave him to settle all matters without my aid, and when everything has been done, I may be prevailed on to take advantage of his goodness; but, in the meantime, I will be as reckless as I may”? The question instantly occurs, How it is either possible or right, consistent with benevolence, to assist such a character? Suppose that your house were on fire, and a well-appointed train of firemen, with their engines, were at hand, to assist in quenching the flames, would you retreat from a scene where perhaps your most important worldly interests were at stake, and where lives dearer to you than your own were in danger, and betake yourself to dissipation or amusement, saying there were persons paid for the work, and whose office and duty it was to attend to it, and that you would devolve all the trouble on them? You could not be so unnatural; you would do everything to rouse the sleeping inmates, to secure your most important papers; and whatever energy, daring, and skill and diligence could accomplish, you would do. Or suppose, again, that you were placed in a garrison which was beleaguered by fierce and formidable foes, that the attacks upon the fortifications were pushed most vigorously on all sides, and it required all your skill and labour night and day to defend yourselves; but in the meantime a numerous and well-appointed army had been sent by your sovereign to your relief, well able to raise the siege and effect your liberation; when you heard the news, would you remit your ardour and watchfulness? When you heard the sound of the trumpets, and the roar of the artillery as they marched to the conflict, and when you knew that the moment of your rescue was at hand, is there a man who would fold his arms, and refuse to mount the ramparts, to sally out and make a diversion on his own side of the camp? who would not dare and do everything to make the defeat of the enemy as complete as possible? If the men refused, the very women would cry shame upon them, take up the arms which the dastards had thrown away, and help to achieve the victory. But, my friends, you have auxiliaries far mightier and stronger than the best disciplined and most enthusiastic troops that ever general brought into the field of battle. You have the army of the Lord of hosts, and at its head the Captain of your salvation; you have all the resources of Omnipotence collected and concentrated for your deliverance. If ever impulse or energy was communicated to the human mind, it must be by such considerations as these; and with all these mercies, boundless and glorious, around you and before, is it not high time to shake off your slumber, to commence your work, and to ask with eagerness, “What shall we do to be saved?” “What shall we do that we may do the works of God?” (R. Redpath, M. A.)

God’s grace and man’s free agency

You might as well expect the steam which gives its mighty energy to the engine to perform all the delicate workmanship of some textile manufacture without the directing brain and controlling hand, as to hope for grace to work apart from the cooperation of the human will; and again, you might as soon expect these mechanical results without the motive power, as that man should save himself without God’s grace. The body is supplied with an organization admirably adapted to our wants, but it is the mind which directs every action, and it is the principle of life which renders action possible. Deprive it of intelligence, and what one action would be rightly performed? And yet we feel that there is a mutual concurrence of mind and body when we do perform anything. (G. Huntington, M. A.)

Grace is God’s work

Before any daisy or violet, before any blossom is seen in the field, the sun lies with its bosom to the ground, crying to the flower, and saying, “Why tarriest thou so long?” and day after day the sun comes, and pours its maternal warmth upon the earth, and coaxes the plant to grow and bloom. And when days and weeks have passed the root obeys the call and sends out its germ, from which comes the flower. Had it not been for the sun’s warmth and light, the flower could never have come to itself. So the Eternal Spirit of God rests on the human soul, warming it, quickening it, calling it, and saying, “O, my sent where art thou?” And at last it is this Divine sympathy and brooding influence that brings men to God, and leads them to say, “Am I not sinful?” and to yearn for something higher and purer and holier. It was God’s work. He long ago was “working in you, to will and to do of His own good pleasure.” (H. W. Beecher.)

God is a silent worker

The grandest operations both in nature and in grace are the most silent and imperceptible. The shallow brook babbles in its passage, and is heard by every one; but the coming on of the seasons is silent and unseen. The storm rages and alarms; but its fury is soon exhausted, and its effects are partial and soon remedied; but the dew, though gentle and unheard, is immense in quantity, and the very life of large portions of the earth. And these are pictures of the operations of grace, in the Church and in the soul. (R. Cecil.)

God’s agency effective when man’s is impotent

See Israel at the Red Sea. By the wilderness, and the mountains, and the sea, the people are shut in; and behind them is Pharaoh in close pursuit, with his great and well-equipped army. If we look simply at man’s valour or wisdom, resistance and escape are equally and utterly hopeless. The cry of Israel to Moses is, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness?” But Moses said to them, “Fear ye not: stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will show you today. The Lord shaft fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” At this point, you observe, they are called to be simple spectators of “the salvation of the Lord” looking on with adoring wonder at the mighty work which only the Divine hand could accomplish--the opening of a pathway for them through the midst of the great waters. But afterwards, for the “Stand still and see,” comes a command to display energetic activity. “The Lord said unto Moses, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea.” So with you and me, dear brethren. The expiation of guilt, the “working out of our salvation” meritoriously, could be achieved only by the God-man; and our part is to “stand still,” and “behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” But now, when, by the Lord’s propitiatory sufferings and death, a way, broad and clear, has been opened for us through the midst of the waters of avenging judgment, His command, loud and explicit, to every one of us is that, by persistent, growing faith and holiness, we “go forward.” (R. Johnstone, LL. B.)

Man to work in his salvation

Though salvation remains wholly of grace, it may be described as worked out by ourselves. God does not reduce man into a machine; He rather puts a machine at man’s disposal, and having imparted the strength to turn the wheel, requires of man that he labour, in order to the evolving the web from the loom. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Man permeable by God

Just as it is the distinction of a crystal, that it is transparent, able to let the light into and through its close flinty body, and be irradiated by it in the whole mass of its substance, without being at all more or less a crystal, so it is the grand distinction of humanity, that it is made permeable by the Divine nature, prepared in that manner to receive and entemple the Infinite Spirit, to be energized by Him, and filled with His glory in every faculty, feeling, and power. (H. Bushnell, D. D.)

Salvation possible, but not easy

Christ has made salvation possible for us, but He has not made it easy; He has brought it near to each of us, but we have still to be working it out. He has cast, as it were, the rope to shipwrecked souls, vainly buffeting with the breakers, and blinded with the spray. We could never have made our way without this help, bruised and battered, benumbed as we were. We could never have saved ourselves without His help, but now all may be well, through Him, only there still needs effort on our part as well as on His, if only to hold fast by the cord of life and watch against the perils that still lie in our way. That effort is needed as really as is His help. The door of life is still open, but it is still a strait gate, and we must strive to enter in. Eternal life may be laid hold of, but we must fight the good fight in order to lay hold on it. (W. C. Smith, D. D.)

Working out salvation

Much more in my absence prove to yourselves, prove to all who care to look at you, that you do not depend on me, that you do not hang upon man or angel; but that you hang on God, who brought the Gospel to you, although He brought it on my lips. It was He who brought it, and He has not gone; He worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. “Oh, ye Philippians,” he says, “you are at no loss, you are at no disadvantage; true I am not with you, though I fain would be; but God is with you, and He is now working in you.” I sometimes think that this verse receives its fullest emphasis by taking it from Paul’s mouth and putting it into Christ’s. We hear it as coming not from Paul the servant, but from Christ the great Master within the veil as He looks down on us. Oh, how it fits us! We are so apt to say--if He were here, then how our sanctification and our Christian work would get on. If He were here with us! And Christ says to us, to us His Philippians here in London, speaking down from the eternal glory, “Wherefore, My beloved, as ye have always obeyed not as in My presence only, but now much more in My absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for I am working in you both to will and to do of My good pleasure.” Christians, we are walking not by sight, but by a spiritual vision of Him who has gone before us, and is drawing us surely and certainly into His own presence. “Not as in My presence only, but now much more in My absence, let there be intensity, let there be individualism; let every man feel that this is his own affair; and while you receive all ministries and all gifts of that kind helpfully and thankfully, rise superior to them all; reach out and forth to Me Myself, your Saviour, your Sanctifier, your All in all.” “Your own salvation;” what does that mean? That is a rare word in the Bible; the Bible is not fond of calling anything our own. I must realize that I have in my heart the salvation I am to work out. Let me enhance this thought in your mind, the thought that salvation is made over to us as our own, in a Book which from beginning to end strips us of all real ownership. “This is mine,” says a man here, or a man not here, “this is my pile, I scraped it together; I rose early, I sat up late,” and as he says it he jerks his money bags or turns over his bank book to the balance. And as we have seen in Glasgow some years ago, in the case of the City of Glasgow Bank, the bank breaks and he is a beggar--he is a beggar! This that he was calling his, even while he clutched it, it left him; for riches take unto themselves wings, and prove to us that that possessive word was foolish; it is disproved by bitter fact. If your wealth was really yours, why did you let it go? “My property,” says a man. “See that? See that fine row of buildings? that is mine. These title deeds mine, securely mine,” and the next morning he is poking among the black ashes with his stick; his property has gone up in a chariot of fire, and come down in a shower of soot! Oh, how sarcastically the chapter of accidents disputes with us this expression: “My own.” How did that happen, if it was really yours? “My child,” says a mother, “my own, my firstborn, the latest thing in babies, did you ever see his like? My own,” and she draws him to her bosom. I can imagine some mother saying, “Now, preacher, you can surely allow the expression here--My own baby;” No, I dare not; I must be true to God’s Word, and true to the facts of life. There is a Power that dares to come in between the babe and the bosom; and that is close work, is it not? “Your own salvation.” That thing, if I may so say, for which you had neither right nor claim nor title, handed over to you, and as it is handed over, this word along with it--“Now that is yours.” “The gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord;” “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life;” “He that believeth hath”--open your arms, man!--“everlasting life.” Now, thou black, grim, doubting devil that dost forever whisper thy words in my ear, I will fight thee here. “My own salvation”--mine because it is a gift. Salvation is ours because it is a gift, and from One who will never withdraw it. “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” Now let us get on to the command, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” That is what I wanted to get at. You have to be active. God’s sovereignty and power evoke human responsibility and activity. You have it, therefore work it out. To use a common illustration: there is a load of bricks here, a load of timber and some slates. That is not a house. No; but there is the making of one, and you can make the house out of it. Now the Lord lays all down at our door; He puts it into our hearts; He comes with the plan and the specification and the material, and says, “Now work them out.” The Greek has at its root the idea of energy. Oh! what a pulsing word--energize your own salvation. Now there are just a number of people needing the word “energize.” The doctrines are lying on your souls like great unwrought lumps of dough that you have not worked out--I speak to housewives--and no man can feed on dough; it will kill him! Many of you are dyspeptics, feeding on Gospel doctrine that you have not kneaded and fired--and I don’t know what--but you understand what I mean! “Work out your own salvation.” Get up now, put your feet below you, fling off your coat, turn up your sleeves, and go at this business like the work of a lifetime, and never stop it, this work of saving yourself, if I may be as contradictory as the Bible is. When the Lord comes to me in all the light of His saving grace, He shows me what to do. He brings all with Him that is needed; but I am not to be lazy; I am not to lie back and do nothing. Now you know what to do. You have a bad temper--work out your salvation. You are getting to be a fair pest in the house because of this temper. You are not to go and cuddle up this temper and say, “I am a child of God, though I have a little infirmity.” Be saved from your infirmity, oh sweet child of God! Another says, “I do believe that I am saved, but I am inconsistent.” Well, save yourself from this inconsistency--work out your own salvation. What would you think of the man who went about with his hands in his pockets whistling and joking, because he had a load of bricks and stones and timber lying all around there; and wanting shelter on a wintry day, he creeps under the bricks and says, “This is my house: here will I dwell.” Are not some of us doing so? Why, if you could see your spiritual house as the Lord sees it, you would get in an awful fright. Oh man, work out your own salvation! Now, blessed be God, His great gift will work out. There is a grand “furthiness”--if you don’t know that word, so much the worse for you--in the grace which comes from Jesus Christ, which will expand and extend and yield as long as you make demands upon it. There are many gifts we get that have none of this furthiness in them. You have them in your house. The first day that gift came to you--some ornament, it is on the mantelpiece--when it came first it told on you, it told of your friend’s kindness, and for a little time there was much in it. But as time went on it did not expand, its gold became dim, and there came some day, some dull, dark day, that you were doleful and needed help, and you stood and looked at that gift, and it utterly failed to do you good. It came to an end. The next question is, How? Here is the modus operandi--“With fear and trembling.” “With fear and trembling”--what does it mean? I does not mean that we are to go through life with our knees forever smiting each other because “in such an hour as we think not” we will drop into the pit again. Many take that meaning out of it, and that paralyzes work. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” The cup of salvation is so full, it is so brimming, it is so sweet, that it would be “too sweet to be wholesome;” it would go to the head “and make us reel and stagger, and become unwatchful and hilarious, and defeat its own purpose. But, wherever Christ gives the cup of salvation, He puts in an infusion of these tonic bitters, “fear and trembling,” so that Grace may not cloy and clog. These are the bitter herbs with which we eat our Passover. The more freely you take of Christ, the more careful you become in life and conduct. It is like the ballast to the ship. You have seen those yachts of ours, designed by Watson and built by Fyfe--things of beauty, and almost instinct with life. There it is; the sea is sparkling in the sun; there is a splendid, crisp breeze blowing. Watch that squall of wind as it strikes the yacht with its great mass and breadth of canvas that would do for the mainsail of a man-of-war. See what happens! You would expect the very breadth of the sheet is going to spoil all. That squall will strike the sail and the vessel will careen and go the bottom. Not at all: that squall strikes her, and most gracefully she yields to it and heels over on to her very beam end; but look at the cut-water. See how she is tearing through! For deep down there is the keel, and a great weight upon it; in these modern days tons of lead are run along the keel; or, as in America, there is a great centre board sent away down into the water, which gives tremendous leverage; and no matter how the yacht heels over, it holds her steady and prevents disaster. So with religion: spread your sails to the gales of Gospel grace; take Christ in all the fulness of the Father’s gift as He is, and the Gospel doctrines will not sink you; you will not grow giddy and light headed, but this fear and trembling will give you rest, weight, grip, ballast, solidity, and you will urge your course forward across these seas of time and sin with splendid speed. It is just like what you have when a man has been saved who was drowning, and all his kicking and struggling were only hastening it. And when this kicking and struggling were over, some one has reached from above and drawn him out, and there he stands on the solid land, saved. Ah! but it was a narrow shave. Rejoicing, but it is not a hilarious rejoicing, is it? He is not cracking his thumbs and jigging, but he is rejoicing “with trembling.” He is altogether saved, and he was so nearly altogether lost. “With fear and trembling.” Take another illustration. An eminent French surgeon used to say to his students when they were engaged in difficult and delicate operations, in which coolness and firmness were needed, “Gentlemen, don’t be in a hurry, for there’s no time to lose.” Time to make that incision once and well in the vital place, not time to dash at it with over confidence. Before you have recovered yourself a precious life will have been spilled. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”--no swagger, no bounce, no bravado, no cocksureness, yet every confidence that He who hath begun this good work will carry it on to the perfect day. All confidence in Thee, my God, and none in myself; that is the way in which I do the best work towards God, or my brother man. Only one life, no second chance for evermore; and into this one life, into this one day, we are to crowd, to pack the utmost of holy living in every direction that we possibly can, “with fear and trembling.” “For it is God that worketh in you;” but I just wish to recite it before I let you go. You work out, as one has said; for God works in. There is the mainspring, there is the unfailing Source, of all the believer’s energy for sanctification, and for personal effort in the Church of Christ to promote His cause. It is God who worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Then let me say at once, we can be holy, we shall be holy, for it is God who worketh in us. Poor drunkard, thou canst give up drink; lustful man, thou canst be clean; for it is God, it is God that worketh in you. Do not be a football of the world, of the flesh, and the devil, for it is God that worketh in you. “Ah! it is true, it is all true; but what can I do?” Now we come back to the Power: “It is God;” and what can He not do if you will only let Him? God is the Source. See how He puts it. It is God that worketh in you. How? Listen: “both to will and to do.” The first thing is to get the will right, and then the deed, don’t you see, will follow. Is it not your complaint and mine, that the will is wrong, the will is twisted, the will has been led captive, by the devil? Well, there is an engine--that splendid creation of the engineering faculty of the nineteenth century! But did you ever see an engine which was allowed to drive itself? There is a splendid horse, but did you ever see a blood horse that was allowed to drive itself? Your engine needs a driver, and your horse needs a rider; and your converted man has a God in him, managing him in every direction. There is the engineer; he steps on the foot plate: with one hand he holds the reversing rod, that sends the engine backwards or forwards; with the other hand, he holds the throttle valve, the opening of which lets the steam into the cylinders. So with God: He holds the will and the doing. Thou art managed, splendidly managed. God will drive thee. God will see to thy supplies, and wilt keep up the Divine pressure. Thou shalt be filled unto all the fulness of God. (J. McNeill.)


Verses 12-18

Philippians 2:12-18

Wherefore my beloved, as ye have always obeyed

I.
The work.

1. Work out your own salvation.

2. In conformity with apostolic teaching.

3. Under all circumstances.

II. The means.

1. Divine power.

2. Personally and solicitously applied.

3. In the spirit of contentment and peace.

III. The end.

1. That ye may be blameless, sons of God.

2. Shedding light on a dark world.

3. Multiplying the joy of the Church both here and hereafter. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The obedience of the Christian life

I. The obedience of the Christian life is the working out of salvation.

1. In relation to God. The absolute power of God’s will, which is the law to every creature and the accepted law to the Christian, is regarded as expressing itself within the heart of man.

2. In regard to the service it performs.

3. In regard to its spirit. “Fear and trembling” is divested of the stern and depressing character it wears in the Old Testament. In the New it is always used in connection with obedience, and always to signify vehement eagerness to do well (2 Corinthians 7:1). There is here no idea of trembling apprehension of the future, nor anything but the humble alacrity that vibrates with eager desire to obey.

II. Salvation must be wrought out in the midst of an evil world. In “fear and trembling” before God, and “without murmurings,” etc., and “before men.” They are to yield obedience to three great laws.

1. The law of dignity.

2. The law of the preservation of purity. The force of the exhortation arises from the fact that as “lights” they are seen, and that “in the midst of the perverse nation they are to let their influences be felt.”

3. The law of a pure exhibition of character for the world’s teaching and example. God has placed His people in the world to be to it what the luminaries are in nature. And of this the reason is: because ye hold in yourselves the Word which is the light of life. (W. B. Pope, D. D.)

Divine help

The method of grace is the method of nature likewise. There is a profusion of plastic elements and forces, but man must plough the soil, sow, reap, and prepare his food for the table; combine them, build the house, capital, palace, cathedral; fashion the ship, map the seas and stars, use the compass, and guide the rudder; discover the laws of matter, invent the engine, and girdle the earth with rail and wire. (A. H. Moment, D. D.)

Working out our own salvation

I. The spirit in which this great work is to be pursued.

1. What will come of any work we undertake largely depends on the “spirit” in which we undertake it. We may enter upon it half-heartedly, or as something merely secondary. But our salvation is to be the principal thing to us; and working it out is to be thorough.

2. Wise cautiousness. “Fear and trembling.” This is not nervous dread, nor timorous quaking, but a keen and ceaseless outlook considering foes and temptations; a self-distrust that sharpens vigilance; a recognition of danger and preparedness to meet it.

3. Cheerfulness--“without murmurings.” The work we do cheerfully brings its own blessing. Do not, then, do it in a grudging, complaining spirit; and this, not only in doing but in bearing.

4. Hopefulness “without disputings,” not with men but with God. Distrust of God will sap our sources of strength. Work out with unquestioning trust in God’s wisdom, goodness, and power.

5. Becomingness, in view of their relationship. They are “the sons of God,” they must live as God’s sons--holy, loving, etc. Their lineage should show itself in their spirit.

II. The incentives to this course of conduct.

1. Consistency. The work is begun and ought in consistency to be finished. Men plead consistency as an argument for a bad course, as Herod in the case of John the Baptist; much more should Christians for a good one.

2. God’s help. In working out our salvation we are not left to our own unaided powers. Because we have effectual help let us be thorough, etc., in this.

3. Responsibility--“lights in the world.” Be then as the lighthouse and the star.

4. Personal relations. They are the apostle’s spiritual children. (J. J. Goadby.)


Verses 12-18

Philippians 2:12-18

Wherefore my beloved, as ye have always obeyed

I.
The work.

1. Work out your own salvation.

2. In conformity with apostolic teaching.

3. Under all circumstances.

II. The means.

1. Divine power.

2. Personally and solicitously applied.

3. In the spirit of contentment and peace.

III. The end.

1. That ye may be blameless, sons of God.

2. Shedding light on a dark world.

3. Multiplying the joy of the Church both here and hereafter. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The obedience of the Christian life

I. The obedience of the Christian life is the working out of salvation.

1. In relation to God. The absolute power of God’s will, which is the law to every creature and the accepted law to the Christian, is regarded as expressing itself within the heart of man.

2. In regard to the service it performs.

3. In regard to its spirit. “Fear and trembling” is divested of the stern and depressing character it wears in the Old Testament. In the New it is always used in connection with obedience, and always to signify vehement eagerness to do well (2 Corinthians 7:1). There is here no idea of trembling apprehension of the future, nor anything but the humble alacrity that vibrates with eager desire to obey.

II. Salvation must be wrought out in the midst of an evil world. In “fear and trembling” before God, and “without murmurings,” etc., and “before men.” They are to yield obedience to three great laws.

1. The law of dignity.

2. The law of the preservation of purity. The force of the exhortation arises from the fact that as “lights” they are seen, and that “in the midst of the perverse nation they are to let their influences be felt.”

3. The law of a pure exhibition of character for the world’s teaching and example. God has placed His people in the world to be to it what the luminaries are in nature. And of this the reason is: because ye hold in yourselves the Word which is the light of life. (W. B. Pope, D. D.)

Divine help

The method of grace is the method of nature likewise. There is a profusion of plastic elements and forces, but man must plough the soil, sow, reap, and prepare his food for the table; combine them, build the house, capital, palace, cathedral; fashion the ship, map the seas and stars, use the compass, and guide the rudder; discover the laws of matter, invent the engine, and girdle the earth with rail and wire. (A. H. Moment, D. D.)

Working out our own salvation

I. The spirit in which this great work is to be pursued.

1. What will come of any work we undertake largely depends on the “spirit” in which we undertake it. We may enter upon it half-heartedly, or as something merely secondary. But our salvation is to be the principal thing to us; and working it out is to be thorough.

2. Wise cautiousness. “Fear and trembling.” This is not nervous dread, nor timorous quaking, but a keen and ceaseless outlook considering foes and temptations; a self-distrust that sharpens vigilance; a recognition of danger and preparedness to meet it.

3. Cheerfulness--“without murmurings.” The work we do cheerfully brings its own blessing. Do not, then, do it in a grudging, complaining spirit; and this, not only in doing but in bearing.

4. Hopefulness “without disputings,” not with men but with God. Distrust of God will sap our sources of strength. Work out with unquestioning trust in God’s wisdom, goodness, and power.

5. Becomingness, in view of their relationship. They are “the sons of God,” they must live as God’s sons--holy, loving, etc. Their lineage should show itself in their spirit.

II. The incentives to this course of conduct.

1. Consistency. The work is begun and ought in consistency to be finished. Men plead consistency as an argument for a bad course, as Herod in the case of John the Baptist; much more should Christians for a good one.

2. God’s help. In working out our salvation we are not left to our own unaided powers. Because we have effectual help let us be thorough, etc., in this.

3. Responsibility--“lights in the world.” Be then as the lighthouse and the star.

4. Personal relations. They are the apostle’s spiritual children. (J. J. Goadby.)


Verses 14-16

Philippians 2:14-16

Do all things without murmurings and disputings--Here is

I. An important admonition.

II. A potent argument--for the sake of your own character, position, comfort--for the sake of the world which must be reproved, enlightened, saved. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

I. The exhortation.

1. The apostle dissuadeth against murmuring, of which there are two sorts.

(a) break out into impatient speeches, such as “What means the Lord to kill us with famine? What greater sinners are we than such and such? Would God He would either mend these things or make an end of us.” Or

(b) through malcontent seek to raise up seditions and rebellions in the commonwealth, so to procure a remedy by a worse mischief. But what was the end of the ancient murmurers? Let the modern ones read for their warning 1 Corinthians 10:1-33.

(a) a common fault. If he be our superior we murmur against him as too great to dwell so near us, be he never so kind to us; if he be our equal we grudge that he should come forward as well as ourselves, or be equally honoured with ourselves; if he be our inferior we disdain him, and his livelihood we wish for ourselves.

(b) The vile malice of this disease is that if there be some cause for our murmuring we make it not a matter of friendly expostulation, but of heart rankling and backbiting.

(c) The root from whence this springs is an evil and jealous mind, which it behoves us to weed out, and to cultivate an opposite temper, candid, open, generous.

2. Against disputings. That we should not fall into open brawlings or quarrellings (Genesis 13:7-8).

II. The reason of this exhortation.

1. That ye may be blameless. Is this possible?

2. Pure. If we hit this mark we shall not miss the other. If pure, then blameless. So we should study to avoid the contagion of sin (Matthew 10:16; Ephesians 6:5; James 1:8).

3. The sons of God in the midst, etc., i.e., that it may be known that we are such (2 Peter 1:10, etc.).

(a) That we fashion not ourselves like unto the world (Romans 12:2; 1 John 2:16).

(b) That we, like just Lot, be vexed in our souls when we see and hear the words and deeds of the wicked (2 Peter 2:8; Psalms 119:158; Psalms 119:136; Psalms 119:53; Psalms 119:139).

(c) That we, like Noah, admonish the wicked.

(d) That we try to win them to the ways of Christ. (H. Airay, D. D.)

The cultivation of a Christian deportment

Conversion is a great change; but the converted need frequent caution lest they should return to pollution in consequence of their surroundings and temptations, and constant exhortations to follow holiness. Hence the rules before us.

I. The Christian deportment, the cultivation of which is commanded.

1. The spirit which Christians are to cherish towards God--“without murmuring,” i.e., impatient discontent with God as have imposed harsh laws, and required difficult obedience. This is the temper of unconverted men, but many professors are in danger of cherishing it. Reflect then--

2. The spirit which Christians are to cherish towards men--“without disputings.”

3. The spirit Christians are to cherish in relation to the public interests and extension of the truth. “Shine … word of life.”

II. The motives by which the cultivation of this deportment is commanded.

1. The just vindication of the Christian character in the presence of the ungodly world. As they exhibited the elements of the Christian character indicated they would be “blameless,” etc., and compel adversaries to render the gospel the tribute of their homage. The importance of this motive is seen--

2. The joy which this exhibition will produce to the minister of the gospel in the day of Christ. Then--

The duties of Church members

As a Christian Church you profess to be a society of believing and faithful men. Without piety you have no place in the Church. Your disqualifications may not appear to men, but they are marked by God.

I. Your duty to your minister, or rather to God in relation to Him. “Do all things without murmurings,” etc., readily, cheerfully, consistently.

1. Love him, as the man who devotes himself to your welfare, as the man who loves you. Where this is wanting outward attention is a worthless form; when this is cultivated all necessary for his happiness will follow.

2. Hear him--

3. Respect his official authority. Some exaggerate this by sacerdotal superstitions; others unduly and unscripturally depreciate it.

4. Supply his temporal wants. This is a matter of right, not charity. It is not to be doled out “murmuringly,” but given generously, so that he may be honest and given to hospitality.

II. Your duty to the church.

1. Unity: the negative “without murmurings” implies the positive. There may be no murmurings because no life--a calmness of death. The only union of worth is that which is quickened by the Spirit. This does not exclude variety. There is beauty, strength, perfection, in harmonious diversity: John’s, Peter’s, Thomas’s.

2. Consistency--“blameless,” etc. Not giving the lie to profession by unchristian tempers, and affording the enemies of the Cross occasion for rebuke. Members of the Church may be divided into--

Now at least belong to the last. It will be but a poor consistency, but it will be harmless, while the positive in consistency, seen in outbreaks of wicked temper, in the violation of truth and justice, in malicious speaking and cruel slander, such brings a stigma on the member and the Church. Consistency, however, requires

And all this you have to exhibit before a crooked and perverse nation, and there is a good deal of crookedness in our times, in legislation, trade and commerce, habits of society. You are by your consistency to draw out the straight lines of Christianity and make the crooked straight.

III. Your duty to the world. “Shine as lights.” Divine light is to be conveyed through your medium. This position is most honourable. It makes you God’s agents. It is not entrusted to philosophers, statesmen, or official people, but to believers as such. Around us is darkness; but in the Church there should be light--the contrast should be visible--in the family, social circle, market, everywhere.

1. Let your characters shine; individually like stars; collectively like constellations.

2. Shine by your voluntary, combined, and well-organized efforts. You are to hold up the Word of life through home and foreign missions, thus resembling Eddystone: “To give light and to save life.” Through your neglect to do this souls may be wrecked.

3. All must join in this dispensation of light, and blend together in one radiance. Unfortunately some never find this out, and others neglect it.

IV. The motive constraining to these various duties. “That I may rejoice,” etc.

1. At that day the relation between pastor and people will be recognized. Nothing is said about other meetings.

2. You can contribute to your pastor’s joy. If you are consistent it will be reckoned to his honour then. (J. Stoughton, D. D.)

The duties of a Church towards its neighbourhood

The relation of a Church to its vicinity is that of--

I. Salt to the land. A Church owes it to the peoples around to destroy prejudice and to dispose men’s minds to the reception of the truth. You live in an age hard to please, etc.; then, be blameless and harmless. The Saviour urged the same duty (Matthew 5:13). Salt was used for manure, to destroy weeds and insects, and to moisten and nourish the soil. Christian characters must remove erroneous notions respecting Christ and His kingdom, awaken attention, and keep from barrenness the field of Christian effort. How?

1. By the irreproachable character of the individual members of a Church. Every true Christian professes to be in training for perfect holiness. Consistency, therefore, requires that he should not allow sin. And men may claim thus much from professors. Now, if any professor have the reputation of being an unkind husband, a disobedient child, a tyrannical master, or a slothful servant, a busybody, a cheat, he creates prejudices and closes men’s hearts against the gospel. Call not these little things. Dead flies cause the ointment to stink, especially to those who want to condemn the ointment. A mote in the Christian’s eye attracts more attention than a beam in the worldling’s.

2. By the peace, harmony, and brotherly love of a Church. Diversities will be found, but as in music, distinct melodies breathed by different voices constitute full harmony. And a neighbourhood knows whether a Church meets in bitterness or in love (Ecclesiastes 10:20). The stormy wind of strife cannot be confined, nor the balmy breeze of charity.

3. By the inviting aspect of the public worship of a Church.

4. By Churches forming benevolent institutions in their neighbourhood, and having their representatives in institutions of a more general character: such as hospitals, societies for the relief of the poor, day schools, etc. The multitude cannot appreciate the man who is a martyr to religious opinions, but they can self-denial and kindness.

II. Light to the world.

1. By providing and sustaining an efficient ministry, adapted to the people, and receiving the Churches’ sympathy, support, and cooperation. By this means a minister is advertised. Let a Church give its ministry a good character, and let it be really good, and hearers will be gathered and souls saved.

2. By every member ministering as he hath received the gift. Is one member qualified for business? Let him serve tables. Is another capable of instructing children? Let him teach the young. Is another gifted with conversational powers? Let him visit, etc. Let every one do something. The deficiency of power in our Churches is the loss of single talents.

3. By cherishing and exercising in all things a spirit worthy of its vocation. Appear as God’s children, separate in character and conduct from the world.

III. As separate stars in a constellation, many golden candlesticks in one holy place, exhibiting real and essential unity. How is this to be developed?

1. By ministers and Churches guarding most carefully each other’s reputation. Let not the unsuccessful be jealous of the prosperous, or the prosperous be cold towards the less favoured. Let none be ready to take up an evil report against his neighbour.

2. By cooperation for common ends. Some objects are pursued most successfully alone; but in circulation of the Scriptures, educational movements, etc., there should be association. To the tents of your tribe for fellowship, etc., but to the open camp for home and foreign missions. This will make our tents as separate dwelling places of one spiritual army.

3. By the universal expression of pleasure in the prosperity of the successful, and of regret in the adversity of the unprosperous (1 Corinthians 12:14-27).

4. By the contribution of assistance to all that need it (Ephesians 4:4-16). (S. Martin.)

Believers’ lights in the world

1. Christian precepts have not suffered any degeneration of meaning. They would naturally be of the gentlest to those emerging from heathenism. If, then, such exhortations were delivered to the newly converted Philippians, we ought to arrive at a high stage of Christian perfection.

2. The apostle says--

(a) Against God’s providence.

(b) Against one another. Let there be no whisperings against those who ought to be esteemed among you.

(c) Against the ungodly world; rather suffer in silence.

3. All this is as means to an end--“that ye may shine,” etc.

I. Publicity required. Christians are to be “lights” and to “shine” and that not in the house, but in the “world”; hence secrecy is impossible. Beware, however, of ostentatious Phariseeism, but do not make it an excuse for cowardice. The Christian--

1. Should make a public avowal of his faith, by coming out from among the world and declaring himself on the Lord’s side.

2. Should be associated constantly with Christian people. One act of profession is not enough; it should be continued by union with the visible Church. The man that was healed stood with Peter and John.

3. Should daily carry out their Christianity in their life. Do not be a display of fireworks. Let the servant outshine others by being more attentive, and the master by being more generous.

4. Should add the open testimony of words.

5. There are times when there must be a very bold and stern decision for Christ. When the old Roman senator was told by Vespasian that he might go to the senate house, but he must hold his tongue, he answered, “I, being a senator, feel impelled to go into the Senate house, and being in the Senate, it is the part of a senator to speak what his conscience dictates.” “Then,” said the Emperor, “if you speak you will die.” “Be it known unto thee, O Emperor,” said he, “that I never hoped to be immortal, nor did I ever wish to live when I might not speak my mind.” This publicity may be further urged from the fact that Christians are runners and soldiers; but who runs or fights in secret?

II. Usefulness intended. We are lights--

1. To make manifest. A Christian should so shine that those who come near him are able to see their own character in his life, and to know the gospel.

2. To guide. The mariner understands this. Every Christian should light some part of the voyage of life, and there should not be a channel without its light.

3. For warning. On our rocks and shoals a lighthouse is erected. There are plenty of false lights. Satan’s wreckers are always abroad tempting under the name of pleasure. Let us put up the true light on every dangerous rock, and so be clear of the blood of all men.

4. For comfort.

5. For rebuking sin. The gas lamps are the best police we have. Thieves do not like the light. So Christians, when they are in sufficient numbers to act on the commonwealth, make crime less common.

6. The Christian’s light, unlike the others, gives light.

III. Position indicated. “Crooked,” etc. This should--

1. Be an incentive. The worse people are, the more need they have of your exertions. If crooked, then make them straight.

2. Administer a caution. Do not wonder if they hate your light, and try to blow it out. Be the more anxious not to give unnecessary offence. Ask Christ to keep you straight and your light burning.

3. Console you. Are you in the midst of a crooked people? So were Paul and the Philippians.

IV. Argument suggested. “That I may not run,” etc. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christianity

1. Is not a mere set of opinions which may lie dormant in the mind; but

2. a system of principles which, taking hold of the innermost springs of feeling and action, gives its own colour and character to all that proceeds therefrom. The apostle enjoins--

I. Negatively, abstinence from those tempers by which Christian graces must be withered and the Christian profession dishonoured.

1. Two blades of grass cannot be found in all respects alike, so we cannot find two men alike in character and temperament. So there must be about the Christian that which distinguishes him not only from the worst, but the best, samples of unrenewed humanity.

II. Positively. The exhibition of Christian light.

1. Where?

(a) How wide these are in the narrowest life.

(b) How dark and needing illumination.

2. How?

3. Let the millions perishing at home and abroad for lack of Christian light and influence stimulate the Christian. (T. Page, M. A.)

The inward principle and outward forth of Christianity

Its spirit takes up and incorporates surrounding materials as a plant clothes itself with soil and climate, whilst it exhibits the workings of a vital principle within, independent of all accidental circumstances. (S. T. Coleridge.)

Negative and positive Christianity

He must be not only blameless, but didactic in his life; he must not only be innocent, but “zealous of good works”; he must not only be pure, but shining. (Jeremy Taylor.)

Inquire--

I. How things are commonly done?

II. How they ought to be done?

III. How they can be so done? (J. Lyth, D. D.)

I. The course condemned is common, humiliating, unsatisfactory.

II. The course commended is possible, wise, pleasant, Christian. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Murmurings and disputings

I. Murmurings.

1. The kinds of murmuring.

2. Causes.

3. Cures.

(a) Justify God (Psalms 119:137; 1 Samuel 3:18; 1 Corinthians 20:19; Psalms 39:1).

(b) Learn a holy silence (Psalms 62:1; Leviticus 10:3).

(c) Practice resignation (Luke 22:42).

(d) Exercise gratitude.

II. Disputings--

1. Issue from murmurings. Murmuring requires vindication; and men are never at a loss for reasons in favour of the worst cause. This extends to duties.

2. Is a great sin. Where theology is disputed it is least practised. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)

Things best dropped

(Children’s sermon.) Did you ever get nervous before a painted portrait? When I was a boy, there was a great oil painting hung over the fireplace of an old gentleman, with a little, sharp, cold, cruel face. But what used to frighten me most were the cold, cruel eyes. They seemed to be everywhere. If I went to the one end of the room, they followed me there; if I went to the other, they followed me. If I did anything that was wrong, they seemed to be sneering, “That is just what I expected from a boy like you!” and if I did anything right, they seemed to sneer still more, “Pah, you will very soon be doing something wrong again!” I was glad when it became too dark to see these eyes, but when the morning came, there were those eyes as unpleasant as ever! I would have been very glad to have turned that picture with its face to the wall! And would you not sometimes like to do that with this text, if it was hung up opposite you? When you are grumbling because your brother or sister got a larger piece of cake than you, or a toy bigger than yours, or when it is not your turn to be taken out, you would not like to see what God is saying to you when you are murmuring and grisling and grudging and disputing. Yet that is what God is saying to you when you are peevish and discontented. He is saying it to make you happy. There was once a little lady who was very unhappy. She lived in a fine house, and had lots of toys and a watch, yet nothing could please her. Even the weather was never just what she wanted. It was sure to rain when she wanted it to be fine, or fine when she took out her new umbrella. From morning to night she murmured and grumbled, and was very unhappy. One day she came upon two poor children playing and having such a hearty game. “These children,” she said, “are very happy. I will ask them what makes them so.” So she asked the eldest boy. “I don’t know, miss, what you mean,” said the boy; “what’s happy?” “Why,” she replied, “it means bright, glad, fond of things.” “Oh!” said the boy, “Jim and I are always glad; ain’t we, Jim?” And the eyes of the little brother danced like sunshine upon ripples as he said, “Yes, always glad.” “But what makes you so glad?” “I don’t know, I’m sure, miss, except that when I try to make Jim glad I get glad myself.” And that was all that he knew about the matter. But as the little lady went home she thought about it, and said to herself, “What the little boy means is this--the way to be happy is by trying to make other people happy.” So she thought she would try, and all that day, instead of grumbling and murmuring and finding fault, she said, “Thank you!” with a pleasant smile; and “Don’t you trouble, let me do it!” in a nice spirit; and, “Well, this task is a little difficult, but I shall manage it!” And she found that everybody got pleasanter to her, and instead of always scolding her, everybody had a kind word for her, and people who used to dislike her came to love her. So she learnt the secret of happiness. And now she has grown into a great woman, people feel better for looking at her. She has such a happy, kindly face. Try to be the same; and instead of grumbling try to make people happy. (J. R. Howat.)

Don’t spoil your portrait

How do you suppose that old gentleman in the picture came to have such an unpleasant look? Because all his life he must have been a grumbling man. Remember that you are now making the features you will have in twenty years’ time. There is nothing that tells on the features so much as grumbling and discontent and fault finding. Why, the moment you look upon some people you say, “What a discontented person that is!” The way to grow beautiful is by trying, in a loving, gentle spirit, to make others happy. That was the way with Jesus. He never murmured. Sometimes He had to go without food, but He knew that His Father would not forget Him. Sometimes people said very hard things of Him, but He never murmured. He just thought, “They don’t know better, poor things! if they did, they would not say such things.” He was always happy, because He was always trying to make other people happy. And once you become busy in that way you won’t have any time to be unhappy yourself. Pray to the dear Lord Jesus to give you His Spirit, to help you to do all things without murmurings and disputings; and the way to keep that spirit when you have got it is--try to be glad when others are glad. (J. R. Howat.)

Evil of disputings

Do all things without “disputings.” Dispute not with God; let Him do what seemeth Him good. Dispute not with your fellow Christians, raise not railing accusations against them. When Calvin was told that Luther had spoken ill of him, he said, “Let Luther call me a devil if he please, I will never say of him but that he is a most dear and valiant servant of the Lord.” Raise not intricate and knotty points by way of controversy. Remember you have adversaries upon whom to use your swords, and therefore there is little need that you should turn their edges by dashing at the armour of your fellows. Dispute not even with the world. The heathen philosophers always sought occasions for debate; be it yours to testify what God has told you, but court not controversy. Be not ashamed to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, but never do it in a spirit of mere debating, never because you wish to gain a victory, but only because you would tell out what God hath bidden you reveal. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Murmuring the cause of disputings

As fuel is to the fire, so are murmurings to contentions, even as the ground and matter whereout they do spring; and as the fire long covered and smothered is not always kept under, but at length bursteth forth into flame, so those concealed hatreds, howsoever for a time they lie boiling within the heart of him who fostereth them, yet do they at length show themselves in their colours, even breaking out into open strifes. It standeth upon us to strangle both mother and daughter, lest, yielding possession in our hearts to the one, we he strangled with the other. (H. Airay, D. D.)

The folly of contentions on the mission field

Captain Stephens relates this incident illustrative of the unwisdom of different denominations competing in the same community for converts. Of course success among the inhabitants of Hawaii brought other labourers into the field, and this led to the following dialogue, which is not without its instruction and warning:--“Have you different gods?” “Different gods? No, we all worship the same living and true God.” “Do you have different Bibles? Certainly not. There is but one Bible, written by men divinely inspired.” “Have you all the same Saviour?” “Yes, the same.” “Well, then, with the same God the same Saviour, and the same Bible, we cannot understand why you differ.” Why should differing Christians put this stumbling block in the way of recently converted heathens. The world is large, and the idolatrous are yet a great multitude. (J. L. Nye.)

Controversy hushed in the presence of heathenism

What a cause of thankfulness it is to be out of the din of controversy, and to find hundreds of thousands longing for crumbs which are shaken about so roughly in these angry disputes. It isn’t High Church, or Low, or Broad Church, or any other special name, but the longing desire to forget all distinctions, and to return to a simpler state of things, that seems naturally to result from the very sight of heathen people. (Bishop Patteson.)


Verse 15

Philippians 2:15

That ye may be blameless and harmless

God’s people

I.
Their true character.

II. Position.

III. Office. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

I. The believer’s sphere--in a dark world, a perverse age.

II. His office--to dispense knowledge, grace, life.

III. His duty--to hold forth, etc., by precept--example. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The Christian in the world

Why is not the Christian, as soon as converted, taken to heaven? Enoch walked three hundred years with God before he was translated; Moses for forty years led Israel ere God took him to be with Himself. Our remaining in the world gives rise to the scheme of Christian duties.

1. In speaking of duties, we must remember that there is no conflict between them. They all harmonize. They are so related that we cannot fully perform any one of them without being led on to the performance of others.

2. All our duties may be classified around three entrees.

3. Are we as Christians in the world fulfilling the plan and purpose of God? Are we blameless and harmless? Are we the sons of God? Do we shine as lights? Are we consumed with zeal for our Father’s house, and are we constantly about our Father’s business? (A. H. Moment.)

All Christians must shine

If I had been made a firefly, it would not become me to say, “If God had only made me a star, to shine always, then I would shine.” It is my duty, if I am a firefly, to fly and sparkle, and fly and sparkle; not to shut my wings down over my phosphorescent self, because God did not make me a sun or a star. (H. W. Beecher.)

Hiding his lamp

A labouring man, soon after confessing Christ and joining a Church in a rural district, had occasion to leave his home for a few weeks, to obtain work during harvest in an adjoining county. On returning home, he was congratulated by his fellow Christians, who expressed their hope that he had been able to stand firm to his profession of Christ, and the opposition and persecution to which they justly concluded he must have been subjected by the ungodly workmen with whom he had been compelled to labour. “Oh, no,” he replied, “I had no persecution at all, for though I was working with them for five weeks, they never found me out.” “So much the worse for you,” they replied, “for if your light had shone before them, and you had borne a witness for Christ, they certainly would have found you out.”

Christians are lights

Lights have a very cheering influence, and so have Christians. Late one night we had lost our way in a park not far from the suburbs of London, and we were walking along and wondering where we were. We said, “There is a light over there,” and you cannot tell what a source of comfort that candle in a cottage window proved to us. I remember riding in a third-class carriage, crowded full of people, on a dark night, when a woman at the end of the carriage struck a match and lit a candle; with what satisfaction everybody’s face was lit up, as all turned to see it. A light really does give great comfort; if you think it does not sit in the dark an hour or two. A Christian ought to be a comforter; with kind words on his lips, and sympathy in his heart, he should have a cheering word for the sons of sorrow. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Christian’s carriage in the world

I. Blameless.

1. This if taken generally is impossible. Even Christ did not live without blame (Hebrews 12:3). The best people are subject to most blame, for wicked people will quarrel with them.

2. But the meaning is so behave yourselves that you give no occasion of offence to your own conscience, or that of others.

II. Harmless. The property of Christians is to do no harm, because our nature is changed. The gospel makes us Came. Among birds, the wicked are likened to ravenous eagles, the Christians to harmless doves; among beasts, the one are like lions, the other like lambs; among plants, briars--lilies.

III. Christians that are blameless and harmless are the sons of God.

1. The ground of this is the love of God (John 1:12; 1 John 3:1).

2. Those who are His sons--

3. God’s sons live without rebuke.

IV. The blameless and sons of God live in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation.

1. The nature of this crookedness.

2. The signs.

3. The cure.

4. Why are Christians so placed?

5. Directions for Christians so placed.

V. In the midst of this nation the sons of God are to shine as lights.

1. Light is--

2. How to be a light.

Harmless--This word probably means sincere, that is to say, pure, not mixed, not sophisticated, that is entirely of one kind, without the true and natural constitution having been altered by anything foreign. And it appears that, to set forth this simplicity and sincerity, God formerly forbade His ancient people to plant a vineyard with different kinds of plants, and to unite under the same yoke animals of different species, and to clothe themselves with a cloth of linen and woollen mixed together, to teach us by the enigma of these figures that He hates a mind and life double and variegated, in the composition of which enters vice and virtue, good and evil, piety and superstition. He wishes us to be entirely Christians, and that there should be nothing strange in the whole range of our conversation; that the outside and the inside should be of the same nature, the one exactly corresponding to the other; that the form, colour, and substance of our lives should be simple, and not mixed. And although this virtue is very extended, it may, nevertheless, be referred to four principal heads.

I. Without hypocrisy before God, acknowledging and confessing ourselves such in His presence as we are in truth, without lessening the good which there is, without also hiding interior defects with the paint and false colouring of our artifices, imitating the coarse fraud of our first father, who, having renounced the naked simplicity in which he had been formed, wished to disguise himself before that sovereign Majesty by covering himself with fig leaves.

II. not to counterfeit before men, giving up frauds, pretences, and dissimulations, crooked and equivocal ways, which the people of the world use, to make their neighbours believe of them the contrary of what they really are.

III. Gentleness and meekness of mind; it is not easily irritated, or if irritation should sometimes arise, it is soon appeased, and in reality loses the remembrance of the offences that have been committed against it.

IV. Freedom from curiosity; it only employs itself on its own business; and, entirely turned within, does not observe very carefully what passes without, from whence it is neither suspicious nor distrustful. (J. Daille.)

The sons of God--

1. There was nothing strange to the ear of a heathen in this title. The gods of the Gentiles were fabled to be the parents of earthy heroes, the fathers of races. One belief of man stands out in all ages, that man and God are related as no creature is related to either God or man.

2. Communion on some level man would have, and so the gods of the Gentiles played the part of the murderer, the adulterer, etc. “Sons of God blameless and harmless” was quite a new collocation of ideas. The sons of God up to that time had been too largely the tyrants, deceivers, roysterers of the world.

3. The atheism of the times was largely a reaction against these degrading conceptions. The mind of all thoughtful men was thoroughly unsettled when Christ appeared, and by living as the Son of God effected a revolution. The seed of this revolution is in Philippians 1:5-11. God dwelt among men at last not corrupting, thieving, or destroying, but healing, purifying, blessing. The end of God is to surround Himself with sons after this pattern.

I. Sons of God: the nature of this relationship.

1. The sons of God are clearly distinguished from the world. It is a title which man as man has no right to share.

2. But how does this square with the doctrine of universal Fatherhood taught, e.g., in Hebrews ii? Children and sons are not coordinate there. The latter is higher than the former, although the former is the base out of which the latter is evolved. In the home the natural relation is one thing, and confers certain rights and claims. The spiritual relationship is another, that is the condition of the child as a being of will, thought, and affection with regard to the parent. And so man may be a child of the Great Parent, but sensual, rebellious. To such God fulfils a Father’s duties and feels a Father’s sorrows; but sons they are not until the spirit of sonship be in them.

3. This is what regeneration means. It is the carrying up the child’s relation through all the higher powers and faculties, and yielding to God the child complete (1 Peter 2:1-11; 1 John 3:1-4). It is in view of this that our Saviour delivers to Nicodemus the deepest doctrine of His kingdom. The new birth is the only way by which the unfilial child can pass into the freedom, joy, and spiritual life of the son.

II. The manifestation of sonship and its fruits.

1. Blameless and harmless (1 Peter 2:18-25; 1 Peter 3:8-18; 1 Peter 4:12-19). Goodness is the most powerful appeal to man. Revenge may terrify, but forgiveness will awe and control. In the multitude there is a hidden sense of the beauty of goodness that only wants appealing to by some act of goodness. Bold men stood and trembled before an agonized child as they never trembled before the foe. Why? Because goodness, patience, faith, are heavenly.

2. There is nothing exclusive in this sonship--“Holding forth the word of life,” that men may live also. The sons are to be magnets to draw the children to the Father, that they may be received as sons. (Baldwin Brown, B. A.)

Insincere professors

As you see that in the world art counterfeits precious stones and drugs, exchanging them for others of little value, which they pass off for good by favour of some apparent resemblance which they have to the true; so also in the Church there has always been found a number of cheats, who, deceiving themselves and others, take the colour and form of the children of God, although in reality they are not so. And as there are certain means by which adulterated goods, such as the gold and stones of alchemy, are discerned from the true; so also in religion there are marks and certain proofs whereby those may be known who have only the name of the children of God from those who are so in reality. Those who sustain these trials, and in whom are really found all these marks, are they whom the apostle here very elegantly calls “children of God, without rebuke;” those whom the crucible cannot make to blush; those in whom neither the calumny nor the cunning of the enemy can find anything to lay hold of; such as the Scripture sets forth in a Job, who confounded all the artifices of Satan, and justified most fully by his trials the glorious testimony which God had condescended to bear to him with His own mouth. (J. Daille.)

In the midst of a crooked and perverse nation--As naturalists say that there are rivers which run through lakes without mingling their waters with them, may we flow together in this world without uniting in its ways, preserving all the colour, strength, and substance of our Divine source; may we be truly that people of God, of which Balaam formerly said, “They shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations;” always strangers in the world, although living on the earth, and breathing its air; floating in the midst of its waters without being confounded with them; walking in its fires without being burnt; constantly remaining upright, perfect, sincere, and unrebukable in the midst of all its obliquities and perversities. (J. Daille.)

Children of God without rebuke.

Moral courage

When the late Commodore Foote was in Siam he had, upon one occasion, the king on board his vessel as a guest. Like a Christian man as he was, he did not hesitate in the royal presence to ask a blessing as the guests took their places at the table. “Why, that is just as the missionaries do,” remarked the king, with some surprise. “Yes,” answered the heroic sailor, “and I am a missionary too.” (Homiletic Monthly.)

Shining Christians

A friend told me that he was visiting a lighthouse lately, and said to the keeper, “Are you not afraid to live here? It is a dreadful place to be constantly in.” “No,” replied the man; “I am not afraid. We never think of ourselves here.” “Never think of yourselves! How is that?” The reply was a good one. “We know that we are perfectly safe, and only think of having our lamps burning brightly, and keeping the reflectors clear, that those in danger may be saved.” Christians are safe in a house built on a Rock, which cannot be moved by the wildest storm, and in a spirit of holy unselfishness they should let their light gleam across the dark waves of sin, that imperilled ones may be guided into the harbour of heaven. (Homiletic Monthly.)

Shine for others

Unless we let our light shine we are hidden from recognition, and may be only stumbling blocks. A blind beggar, sitting on a sidewalk one dark night, had a bright lantern by his side. Whereat a passer-by was so puzzled that he had to turn back with, “What do you keep a lantern burning for? You can’t see.” “So that folks may not stumble over me,” was the reply. We should keep our light burning for the sake of others as well as for the good of being in the light ourselves. (J. L. Nye.)

Christian influence

When Lord Peterborough lodged for a season with Fenelon, Archbishop of Cambray, he was so delighted with his piety and virtue that he exclaimed at parting, “if I stayed here any longer, I should become a Christian in spite of myself.”


Verse 16

Philippians 2:16

Holding forth the word of life--Here is

I.
A trust. The Word of God--which gives life.

II. A duty. To hold it forth in the conversation, spirit, practice.

III. A motive. Your salvation and our joy--in the day of Christ. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The word of life

The gospel is here thus called (John 6:68; Acts 5:20), because--

I. By it we are born into a new life (1 Peter 1:23).

II. It is the power of God unto salvation (2 Corinthians 2:16).

III. Therein Christ, who is our life, is offered to us.

IV. It is a lantern to our feet to lead us to eternal life. (H. Airay, D. D.)

The Bible

I. Is the word of life; it reveals, promises, communicates life.

II. Must be held forth by every believer, by word and example, for his own credit, the world’s benefit, God’s glory. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Holding forth the word of life

I. The character of the gospel. It is the word of life, because--

1. It unfolds the certainty of a blessed immortality. Reason has nothing to report except speculations and probabilities; as witness the conclusions of Socrates and Cicero. The gospel brings life and immortality to light.

2. It exhibits Christ who is essential life Himself, the Author of life natural, spiritual, and eternal. Hence He is called “The Life;” and “He that hath the Son hath life,” implying previous “death in trespasses and sins.” By faith the believer “passes from death unto life.”

3. It is the instrument of the Spirit in communicating life. “Of His own will begat He us,” etc., “born not of corruptible seed,” etc. It is also the means of sustaining life and maturing it.

II. The manner of its exhibition. Holding it forth. What the lighthouse is to the mariner the gospel is to a dark world.

1. Ministers are bound to hold it forth to their congregations as the only sure ground of hope, and adequate means of salvation. Can they with this in their hands amuse them with other topics, or inculcate a lifeless morality?

2. Christians are individually and collectively to hold it forth in their lives for the instruction of mankind. Men are unable to judge of any system save by its practical effects, and few will fail to appreciate a holy life.

3. Our country is bound to hold it forth to heathen nations. (D. Ruell.)

Holding forth the word of life

I. Be sure that you have the truth. You cannot hold forth what you do not possess. Business to be honest must have actual stock or capital. Our commercial and agricultural circles have been and are now disturbed by gambling in “deals” and “futures.” Thousands of barrels of oil that never existed, and millions of bushels of grain that never were harvested, have been made the basis of mere speculation. Mortgage and ruin have overtaken multitudes in this illegitimate traffic. There is a godless spiritualism, a Christless Unitarianism, and a Scriptureless “new theology,” which, however curious they may be, have no breath or life in them for a hungry soul. You might as well send a starving man to a bucket shop for bread as to satisfy your soul with such speculations. The wife of Abraham made cakes for the angels. There have been improvements in bread making since Sarah’s day, but nobody yet has been able to make bread without flour. You must have the grain to begin with, and so you must have the truth, the bread of life, before you attempt to feed the famine of the soul.

II. Be sure that you have it unadulterated. Commissions have discovered food adulterations. Innutritious if not poisonous matter has been mixed with wholesome flour, cheapening and degrading it. So the truth has been vitiated by a mixture of philosophy, tradition, etc. It fails to nourish starving souls. The best test of purity is its effect on your own life. Daniel tested the wholsomeness of his coarse pulse, and showed a fairer hue than those who fed on royal dainties.

III. Be sure that you yourselves are living epistles of what you intellectually hold. It is not the printed book that does the work, but the truth which has become the vital texture of your soul. We have a revised version of the Bible for which we are thankful, but every Christian should be a new transcript, a walking word of God. A military man sees at a glance whether a soldier has been trained under old or new schools. Men are not slow to detect whether or not you have been trained by Christ.

IV. How to hold the truth.

1. Not as the miser holds his gold, but hold to give. The merchant gets to give. He is ruined if he cannot sell, and his goods are left to spoil. We ought to be as anxious to disperse as to acquire.

2. Lovingly. Tact is needed in business. Anybody can buy, but to sell is another thing. I once asked a salesman why he was so talkative to one customer and so taciturn to another, and he said that he had always studied character, and knew very quickly how to handle men.

3. Constantly. Notice the present participle in the text, and the continuous action implied. You cannot cover up the Christian character and live. It must have breath. In descending into deep wells, men first lower a candle. If it goes out, they know that death damps are there. No sane person would risk asphyxia. There are places in which no Christian ought to risk himself, because death is there. He will not go to drinking saloons, and other places I need not mention. It is not the darkness there that harms, any more than in the deep well, but it is the death damps!

4. Have confidence in the Word as God’s own message. It is His Word. He will give it success. He ordered the serpent of brass. It mattered not about the pole, whether it were rough or smooth, crooked or straight, large or small, low or high, so that the people could see it. All men had to do was just to look and live. A man once kept on his parlour mantel an ugly oyster shell. When asked why that incongruous thing was there, he told the story of his earlier years. He was a diver. Once he saw a shell in which was held a bit of paper. He took it to the surface, carried it home, deciphered it, and found it a part of a gospel tract. It was blessed to his salvation. The shell was reverently preserved, because it had silently “held forth the word of life” to him who had long neglected the appeals from human lips. (A. Blackburn, D. D.)

Holding forth the word of life

I. It is your business to hold forth the word of life. Your work on earth is not done when you have saved yourself from an untoward generation. You have to hold your lamps as far in as you can into the dark mass around. God does not call you to a timid, fugitive, skulking piety; a religion which has to lock its doors and bar its windows. There is a part of it which has to do with this. Our lamp must be kindled, trimmed, and fed, in secret. But the office of the lamp is to shine.

II. By what means?

1. By example. Let men see how you live. No one can set limits to the operation of a consistent example. Men are never too old or too young to be struck by it.

2. By sympathy. There is a dry, cold, harsh, stern, mode of expressing the truth; and there is a repulsive, ungenial, precise, stiff, sort of example which never leads men, seeing its good works, to glorify God. Let a man, a child, see that you feel for him and with him in his poverty or sorrow, and not as a superior might do, but as one compared with infirmity.

III. Practical counsels. Much is lest in spiritual as well as in worldly things, by too vague and discursive an aim. As long as we think generally of shining as lights in the world there will be something of unreality in the conception. Let us make the matter more practical by narrowing the bounds.

1. Begin with the home. Is all right there? Remember that those within your own doors see you as none else can.

2. Let each one have a few poor persons to whom he will steadily set himself to carry the word of life. (Dean Vaughan.)

Christian influence

I. What is meant by holding forth the word of life. As a standard bearer holds out an ensign to direct the march or animate the attack; as a man who holds forth a clear light in the midst of darkness to illuminate the path and direct the steps of travellers; as the fires which were kept burning at the entrance of harbours to direct ships into port, so are Christians to hold forth the light of life. It is to be held forth in--

1. Its great and distinguishing doctrines. These are the nerves and sinews of the Word. They must be understood intelligently, and defended valiantly. “Be always ready to give an answer for the hope that is in you.”

2. In its peculiar spirit. This distinguishes the gospel from every other religious system. It is a spirit of love to God and man (verse 5).

3. In its practice. The imitation of Christ, obedience, self-denial.

4. Eminently, conspicuously.

II. Motives to enforce this duty.

1. The nature and design of the gospel demand this.

2. This is the best means of high Christian attainment.

3. This is the most effective means of usefulness. (J. Hanes, D. D.)

Holding forth the light

When I was a young student, I breakfasted with Caesar Malan at Dr. John Brown’s. When the doctor told him that I was a young student of divinity, he said to me, “Well, my young friend, see that you hold up the lamp of truth to let the people see. Hold it up and trim it well. But remember this: You must not dash the lamp in people’s faces, that would not help them to see.” How often have I remembered these words! They have often been of use to me. (Dr. Morison.)

Christians are light holders

At the head of New York Harbour stands a colossal statue of Liberty, a gift from France to America. At night the outstretched hand of the figure holds forth a magnificent display of the electric light, which guides the ships to a safe anchorage. What that statue is to New York Harbour Christians are to the world. They must hold forth the word of life. (R. Brewin.)

Exposure of light bearers

Some years ago I went to see the lighthouse, which, standing on Dunnet Head--the Cape Orcus of the Romans--guards the mouth of Pentland Firth. On ascending the tower, I observed the thick plate glass windows of the lanthorn cracked--starred in a number of places. I turned to the keeper for an explanation. It appears that it is done by stones flung up by the sea. The wave, on being thrown forward against the cliff, strikes it with such tremendous force as to hurl the loose stones at its base right up to the height of three hundred feet. So are the great light bearers, by the exposure of their position, and, in spite of the elevation of their characters, liable to be cracked and starred by the violence of the world. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

The prosperity of the pastor, the prosperity of his flock

As in the world a fine and fruitful flock is the riches of the shepherd, an honest and well conducted family the joy and honour of the father, a happy and flourishing state the strength and glory of the prince; so also in the kingdom of Jesus Christ, a holy and blessed Church, abounding in the fruits of righteousness, is the crown, the joy, and the triumph of its pastors. (J. Daille)


Verse 17-18

Philippians 2:17-18

If I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith--Observe

I.
The sacrifice of faith. Christ is the only true sacrifice, faith offers it--every one must offer it for himself.

II. The libation. The blood of the martyrs--joyfully offered--in defence of the truth, and for the confirmation of our faith. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The law of the Christian life

The sacrifices of the Jews were not all sombre ceremonials. A solemn oppression rested on the people on the great day of Atonement; and it was not until the High Priest returned from the Most Holy Place, and proclaimed by His presence that the ceremonial was ended, that the people were able to breathe in gladness again. But there was one special festival which was of a joyous character--the whole burnt offering, or “splendour” offering, which was an expression of gratitude to God for His goodness. This was the service in which beasts in multitude smoked upon the altar, and wine was poured out in libation. It was to this that the apostle here refers. He delighted to think of humanity as presented in offering to the most Holy One--all presenting to God their faith and sacrifice, and to have part in such service was his highest joy. Life itself might be freely poured out upon it in libation. Christian history furnishes us with the reality of these two types. When the Saviour hung on Calvary, the sin-offering, there was no room for any but solemn accessories. “There was darkness,” etc.; but when He returned the whole spirit of piety was altered and enlarged. Sadness gave way to joy; death, suffering, endurance, became charged with joyous inspiration; so that the very word “sacrifice” took on a new significance.

I. In Christian service there must be sacrifice.

1. This is the law of Christian life. “If any man will come after me,” etc.

2. It is the impulse of Christian affection. “Enough for the disciple to be as his Lord.”

3. It is the revelation of a higher righteousness. “It is better to suffer,” etc., because “Christ also suffered the just,” etc.

4. It is the assurance of triumph and the way to spiritual influence. “If we suffer with Him we shall also reign with Him.”

II. Faith knows how to vindicate and approve the law of sacrifice.

1. The cause of humanity is justly held to vindicate all the sacrifices that individual men can make to it. That story of Marcus Curtius, who threw himself into the gulf opened in the forum at Rome, is one of the noblest legends of history. Now and then we are thrilled by records of shipwreck, how that officers stand on the quarter-deck and go down with the ship. To what purpose is this waste? The cause of humanity demands it, and he would be a dastard who would count his own life dearer than that of the tiniest child. The gifted must not alone enjoy their gifts, but lay them out in the service of the undistinguished.

2. The Christian cause is the cause of man. Philanthropy has drawn its inspiration from the life of Christ. What was the sacrifice of which the apostle speaks, and which missionaries offer? To free the heathen from their licentiousness, to throw a new glory on the lot of the slave, to light the pathway of the dying, to raise woman from her degradation, etc., etc. Whatever be the talk about humanity, the opportunity for serving it must be sought in the fellowship of Christ.

3. The service of Christian faith contemplates not only humanity but also God.

III. The sacrifice of faith is a common sacrifice. Paul aims to draw the Philippians into the fellowship of his own sacrificial ecstasy, and assumes that they are already in sympathy with him. He speaks of himself as the libation only, and of them us the sacrifice. He calls it the sacrifice and liturgy of their faith.

1. It is to their service that he is devoted; how, then, could they do other than join with him in the sacrificial spirit which possesses him. They cannot blame the enthusiasm which carried him into danger at Rome when they remembered the vision of the man of Macedonia.

2. It was their cause because it was the cause of Christ, and they were Christians. The same law and sacrifice was binding on them and on him; they would be as ready as he to be offered if the same call should come. Here are two thoughts which should reconcile us to sacrifice, particularly when witnessed in others.

The spirit of the martyrs

I. Faith. They died in faith for the faith.

II. Love--to Christ and His cause--to the brethren.

III. Joy, in the prospect of glory, of the benefit derived by the Church.

IV. Triumph over persecution and death. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The Christian service

I. The sacrifice. The Jewish sacrifices were propitiatory and eucharistic. Our Lord by the offering of Himself once for all has fulfilled the former, but Christians are “to offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually,” “to present their bodies living sacrifices,” and “with such God is well pleased.”

1. All sacrifices involve something given up. Thus we say a man “sacrificed half his fortune;” a father “sacrificed his time for his son.”

2. Faith is here represented as a sacrifice, because out of it all other sacrifices spring--love, zeal, liberality. Is our faith such? Do we in it surrender anything really valued? Does it cost us a struggle? If not, may we not suspect that it is a mere assent to doctrine.

3. Real faith is sacrifice, inasmuch as it is a renunciation of pride.

II. The priestly service connected with the sacrifice.

1. The New Testament recognizes but one priest in the strict sense of the word, but by a figurative application of the name, Christians are priests as by “the unction of the Holy One.” Set apart from the world for the service of God, “a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices.” Such a spiritual sacrifice was the Philippians’ faith.

2. In speaking of this faith St. Paul introduces a variation of the ordinary figure, to bring out the relation between him and them. His labours had been blessed to their conversion and advancement, and thus had been a kind of priestly service. Through the spiritual energy given them from heaven, they brought faith and love as a free-will offering to God; and the apostle’s part in the work, his teachings, and prayers, corresponded with the priestly act of laying the offering on the altar (Romans 15:15-16).

3. See, then, the comprehensive work of the Christian priest. He is called on to present his whole life by personal holiness, and also to bring other men to God and help them onward. This work belongs to all Christians.

4. The apostle thought it not unlikely that he should close his relations with his converts by a violent death. This would be his “being offered” (lit., poured forth)
the libation or drink offering by which his priestly service connected with their sacrifice of faith should be completed. The apostle’s joy in this prospect is very sublime, and is a magnificent proof of the sustaining power of the Christian faith. The sources of Christian joy in prospect of martyrdom are two-fold.

5. In this the joy was mutual. (R. Johnstone, LL. B.)

The joy of the Church in her martyrs and confessors

I. In their faithful testimony and noble triumph.

II. In the confirmation of the faith and its consequent diffusion.

III. In the encouragement afforded by their example. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Priest and sacrifice

In the first place, he compares himself to a priest, and sets before us the conversion of the Philippians to the faith of the gospel, brought about by his preaching, and their piety as its consequence, under the image of a sacrifice. He speaks in the same way in Romans 15:16. In this mystical sacrifice the apostle was the high priest; the gospel was, as it were, the knife with which he spiritually immolated his victims. The Philippians converted to Jesus Christ were his victims; for as also the ancient priests consecrated to God the victims that they offered, so also the apostle, and all the faithful preachers of the gospel, lead and offer to the Lord those to whom they preach the word with effect. Besides, as the priests of old put their victims to death, so now do the ministers of the gospel in some manner immolate men who receive their preaching, making them die to the world and the flesh, drawing out of their hearts vain affections and lusts, in which their life consisted. And as for the ancient victims, they remained purely and simply dead, without receiving from the hand of the priest any kind of life instead of that of which he had deprived them. But it is not so with the men whom the ministers of the Lord immolate with the sword of His gospel. For instead of this miserable, earthly, and carnal life which they take from them, they clothe them with another that is holy and Divine, changing them by this mystical sacrifice from children of Adam into children of God, from old and perishing creatures into new and heavenly men. Besides this difference, there is still another. For whereas those poor animals, destitute as they were of reason and intellect, suffered death simply, without any act on their part; now the victims of Jesus Christ are only immolated when they knowingly and willingly receive the stroke of the gospel. Thus you see that the apostle here expressly mentions the faith of the Philippians, as it was through that they had been offered to God. From whence again a third difference arises between these two kinds of victims. For whereas the ancient victims remained entirely deprived of their being, without obtaining any new one; men now offered to God by the gospel, besides being made by it new creatures, become also themselves priests, to offer themselves henceforth to God, by a true faith, presenting their bodies to him in sacrifice (Romans 12:1; 1 Peter 2:5). And this is the reason that the Scripture honours with the name of sacrifices all those actions of their spiritual life which they practise in faith, as their alms giving, their repentance, their patience, their hymns, their prayers, and such like. St. Paul comprehends here all those spiritual oblations under the name of sacrifice and service of faith of the Philippians. (J. Daille.)

The joy of martyrdom

The Greeks of old delighted to tell how Phidippides--fleetest of foot among his countrymen--having borne himself gallantly in the great fight at Marathon, darted from the field immediately after victory was secure, ran to Athens, related his tidings to the fathers of the city, closing with the words, “Rejoice ye, as we rejoice,” and then, utterly exhausted by wounds and toil, fell down dead before them. The entire sinking of the thought or care of self in joy over the safety and glory of his native land was very beautiful. Yet the noblest feelings which arise out of any of the relations of man to what is earthly and visible, make but a feeble approach to the grandeur of spirit of him who “joys” to think of dying a cruel death, that the unseen God, the God whom he knows by faith only, may thereby be glorified. Paul believed that “out of the eater would come forth meat; and out of the strong, sweetness,”--that from the place of his martyrdom there would exhale a rich fragrance of Christ, which would bring spiritual joy to many souls;--and therefore he would gladly “endure all things for the elect’s sake, that they also might obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.” (R. Johnstone, LL. B.)

The kindled torch

Perhaps one of the closest parallels with the apostle’s spirit and word is that of the venerable Latimer, as at the stake in front of Balliol College at Oxford he encouraged his younger companion in tribulation, Ridley: “Be of good cheer, brother! We shall this day kindle such a torch in England as by the blessing of God shall never be extinguished.” (J. Hutchinson, D. D.)

William Tyndale, the grandest figure, perhaps, take him all in all, of the English Reformation--a man of Pauline strength of character and singleness of devotion to the work which God had given him to do--suffered martyrdom in circumstances of such seclusion that we know scarcely anything more than the mere fact. But no information of his demeanour in the dungeon of Vilvorde could possibly either tell us more of his character, or speak more weightily for Christ to any one who has ears to hear, than these words, written years before, in his preface to “The Parable of the Wicked Mammon,”--“Some man will ask, peradventure, why I take the labour to make this work, inasmuch as they will burn it, seeing they burned the gospel. I answer, In burning the New Testament they did none other thing than that I looked for; no more shall they do if they burn me also, if it be God’s will it shall so be. Nevertheless, in translating the New Testament I did my duty, and so do I now, and will do as much more as God hath ordained me to do.” (R. Johnstone, LL. B.)

Luigi Pascali, pastor of the Waldenses in Calabria, being condemned to death after the horrors of a long captivity, and but a little while before his death by fire, was visited by his brother. The spectacle he presented in consequence of his sufferings caused his brother to fall powerless when he attempted to embrace him. But as the visitor has himself told us, the martyr exclaimed, “My brother, if you are a Christian, why do you allow yourself to be thus cast down? Do you not know that not a single hair can fall from our heads without the will of God? Trust in Jesus and take courage. The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” “These are the feelings of my heart,” wrote the martyr; “My faith becomes stronger as the hour approaches, when I am to be offered as a sweet-smelling sacrifice unto Christ. Yes, my joy is so lively that I can fancy I see my fetters broken, and I would be ready to brave a thousand deaths, were that necessary for the cause of truth.” To his betrothed wife, Camilla Guarina, whom he was to see no more, he wrote, “My love to you increases with my love to God. The more I have suffered the more progress I have made in the Christian religion, and the more also have I loved you. Console yourself in Jesus Christ. May your life be a copy of His.” (M. Bonnet.)


Verses 19-30

Philippians 2:19-30

I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly

Christian friendship

I.
Is founded in the faith of Christ.

II. Concerns itself for the state of others.

III. Is unselfish.

IV. Is proved by faithful service.

V. Survives difficulties.

VI. Abounds in want, sickness, sorrow.

VII. Ferrets its sorrow in the joy of others.

VIII. Can sacrifice life itself. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Christian mutual happiness

The solicitude of the apostle was evinced--

I. By what he hopes to do.

1. To send Timothy.

2. To visit them himself. This is contingent

II. By what he has already done in sending Epaphroditus to them. Paul sent them their own messenger.

1. A man of the highest worth.

2. For his (Epaphroditus’) improvement: he had been sick, and greatly longed to see them.

3. For their joy at his return with tidings of a mission successfully accomplished (and as the bearer of this Epistle).

4. For his (Paul’s) own comfort therein.

III. And by what he hopes will be their conduct toward Epaphroditus.

1. To receive him in the Lord with all gladness.

2. To hold him in reputation, i.e., honour him.

3. Because his accomplished mission showed him to be worthy of all.

IV. Five reflections.

1. Well wishers are to be determined and judged by their ability to perform.

2. We ought to think of the comfort of others as well as of our own.

3. Faithful ministers are worthy of esteem and honour, and especially missionaries.

4. A self-sacrificing spirit is the highest and loveliest trait of character that man can reach and possess.

5. Epaphroditus, through the loveliness of his character (he had not been misnamed), his courage, consistency, zeal, and unselfishness, in six verses of an epistle (his only mention) acquires an immortality of fame that a Caesar might covet. Goodness is true greatness, and exalts its possessor to the stars. (L. O. Thompson.)

Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus

I. Paul is the chief figure in the group.

1. lie is a prisoner, hoping and strongly expecting to be free, but not so sure whether his liberty will lead him out again on earth or usher him into heaven. Still his hope is that before long he will be with his friends. Meantime has come a messenger from Philippi with help and messages of affection. He desires not simply to send an acknowledgment--any messenger could take that--but to send some one who would help them in the highest sense.

2. Here in Rome are a number of persons who in general capability are quite equal to the service, and we can imagine the question put to them as they came to Saul’s lodging--“Will you go to Philippi? It is of great consequence that evils should be checked and that spiritual knowledge and strength should be increased. Will you go? “No,” says one. “The journey is hard and perilous, and success uncertain.” “No,” says another. “Not that I have any fear, but I prefer Rome. I can be as useful here as at Philippi.” “No,” says a third. “I prefer home.” And so the chain is heavier on Paul’s wrist, as he writes, “All seek their own,” etc.

3. This, then, is the dark group we have to look at first. They are unnamed, happily. The term “all,” is limited to those who were asked, and it is a verdict not on character but; in relation to one point of duty. But the failure was a great one. It cannot be a light thing for a Christian to thus shrink from duty, and to fall by our own choice from the highest and best service. Each of us has some Philippi. It may be some ordinary place or plain service, but whatever tests purity of motive and strength of principle is as great as an apostolic mission. The essence of New Testament teaching is life in Christ and for men. To the uttermost He saves; to the uttermost we are to serve.

II. Here is Timothy; he will go. There is no man minded like him. He is Paul’s other self. You go into a gallery of pictures, and they are all good in some way; but perhaps out of many hundreds only two or three approach the highest mark. So every Christian has the light of God on him, but how few shine with unwavering lustre: ready for every call of duty. Some lines in this picture are worthy of note.

1. Timothy has grown into this perfectness from his youth. No moral excellence is achieved suddenly. If you want to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ you must enter the service early. If you want to be fit for anything to which God may call you, begin at once and work your way up. When you are ready the call will come.

2. Another line is obedience. A good many years have passed since Paul found him at Derbe, but he has been “serving” all the time. No doubt before now he has been master to many, but he has never ceased to be a servant. Leave it to others to command, speculate, dispute in the gospel, or even to rest in it and enjoy it. A nobler and more fruitful use is to serve in it.

3. Another line is sonship. This relation is more than once referred to. “I have no man who will naturally,” i.e., as a birthright.

III. The third figure is Epaphroditus, pastor of the Philippian Church, bearer of a precious gift, brother, companion, fellow soldier.

1. He gave himself to the work in Rome with such eagerness that his health was undermined. The apostle could smite a sorcerer and heal the father of Publius, but he could not raise up a dear fellow labourer. Miracle power was for public uses, not private satisfactions. Those who preach the cross must bear it.

2. At length, after many fears and prayers, danger passes away. With convalescence came homesickness and a desire to relieve the anxiety of friends. Conclusion: We have been in good company. Imagination may depict the scene in Paul’s chamber; but revelation has given us the moral portraiture.

The lessons we may learn in such society are--

1. The importance of a sincere and thorough self-denial in the Christian character.

2. The exceeding beauty of a consecrated life.

3. The use and value of suffering. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

The mission of Timothy

exhibits--

I. The missionary principle.

1. Trust in Christ.

2. A concern for the condition of others.

II. The kind of agency to be employed.

1. Earnest.

2. Unselfish.

3. Tried.

III. The course of action to be pursued.

1. Prompt.

2. Wise.

3. Believing.

4. Persevering. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Christian intercourse

I. Is sanctified by faith.

II. Sweetened by faith.

III. Replete with comfort. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The value of a true comforter

Happy is the man who has that in his soul which acts upon the dejected as April airs upon violet roots. Gifts from the hand are silver and gold, but the heart gives that which neither silver nor gold can buy. To be full of goodness, full of cheerfulness, full of sympathy, full of helpful hope, causes a man to carry blessings of which he is himself as unconscious as a lamp is of its own shining. Such a one moves on human life as stars move on dark seas to bewildered mariners; as the sun wheels, bringing all the seasons with him from the south. (H. W. Beecher.)


Verses 19-30

Philippians 2:19-30

I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly

Christian friendship

I.
Is founded in the faith of Christ.

II. Concerns itself for the state of others.

III. Is unselfish.

IV. Is proved by faithful service.

V. Survives difficulties.

VI. Abounds in want, sickness, sorrow.

VII. Ferrets its sorrow in the joy of others.

VIII. Can sacrifice life itself. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Christian mutual happiness

The solicitude of the apostle was evinced--

I. By what he hopes to do.

1. To send Timothy.

2. To visit them himself. This is contingent

II. By what he has already done in sending Epaphroditus to them. Paul sent them their own messenger.

1. A man of the highest worth.

2. For his (Epaphroditus’) improvement: he had been sick, and greatly longed to see them.

3. For their joy at his return with tidings of a mission successfully accomplished (and as the bearer of this Epistle).

4. For his (Paul’s) own comfort therein.

III. And by what he hopes will be their conduct toward Epaphroditus.

1. To receive him in the Lord with all gladness.

2. To hold him in reputation, i.e., honour him.

3. Because his accomplished mission showed him to be worthy of all.

IV. Five reflections.

1. Well wishers are to be determined and judged by their ability to perform.

2. We ought to think of the comfort of others as well as of our own.

3. Faithful ministers are worthy of esteem and honour, and especially missionaries.

4. A self-sacrificing spirit is the highest and loveliest trait of character that man can reach and possess.

5. Epaphroditus, through the loveliness of his character (he had not been misnamed), his courage, consistency, zeal, and unselfishness, in six verses of an epistle (his only mention) acquires an immortality of fame that a Caesar might covet. Goodness is true greatness, and exalts its possessor to the stars. (L. O. Thompson.)

Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus

I. Paul is the chief figure in the group.

1. lie is a prisoner, hoping and strongly expecting to be free, but not so sure whether his liberty will lead him out again on earth or usher him into heaven. Still his hope is that before long he will be with his friends. Meantime has come a messenger from Philippi with help and messages of affection. He desires not simply to send an acknowledgment--any messenger could take that--but to send some one who would help them in the highest sense.

2. Here in Rome are a number of persons who in general capability are quite equal to the service, and we can imagine the question put to them as they came to Saul’s lodging--“Will you go to Philippi? It is of great consequence that evils should be checked and that spiritual knowledge and strength should be increased. Will you go? “No,” says one. “The journey is hard and perilous, and success uncertain.” “No,” says another. “Not that I have any fear, but I prefer Rome. I can be as useful here as at Philippi.” “No,” says a third. “I prefer home.” And so the chain is heavier on Paul’s wrist, as he writes, “All seek their own,” etc.

3. This, then, is the dark group we have to look at first. They are unnamed, happily. The term “all,” is limited to those who were asked, and it is a verdict not on character but; in relation to one point of duty. But the failure was a great one. It cannot be a light thing for a Christian to thus shrink from duty, and to fall by our own choice from the highest and best service. Each of us has some Philippi. It may be some ordinary place or plain service, but whatever tests purity of motive and strength of principle is as great as an apostolic mission. The essence of New Testament teaching is life in Christ and for men. To the uttermost He saves; to the uttermost we are to serve.

II. Here is Timothy; he will go. There is no man minded like him. He is Paul’s other self. You go into a gallery of pictures, and they are all good in some way; but perhaps out of many hundreds only two or three approach the highest mark. So every Christian has the light of God on him, but how few shine with unwavering lustre: ready for every call of duty. Some lines in this picture are worthy of note.

1. Timothy has grown into this perfectness from his youth. No moral excellence is achieved suddenly. If you want to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ you must enter the service early. If you want to be fit for anything to which God may call you, begin at once and work your way up. When you are ready the call will come.

2. Another line is obedience. A good many years have passed since Paul found him at Derbe, but he has been “serving” all the time. No doubt before now he has been master to many, but he has never ceased to be a servant. Leave it to others to command, speculate, dispute in the gospel, or even to rest in it and enjoy it. A nobler and more fruitful use is to serve in it.

3. Another line is sonship. This relation is more than once referred to. “I have no man who will naturally,” i.e., as a birthright.

III. The third figure is Epaphroditus, pastor of the Philippian Church, bearer of a precious gift, brother, companion, fellow soldier.

1. He gave himself to the work in Rome with such eagerness that his health was undermined. The apostle could smite a sorcerer and heal the father of Publius, but he could not raise up a dear fellow labourer. Miracle power was for public uses, not private satisfactions. Those who preach the cross must bear it.

2. At length, after many fears and prayers, danger passes away. With convalescence came homesickness and a desire to relieve the anxiety of friends. Conclusion: We have been in good company. Imagination may depict the scene in Paul’s chamber; but revelation has given us the moral portraiture.

The lessons we may learn in such society are--

1. The importance of a sincere and thorough self-denial in the Christian character.

2. The exceeding beauty of a consecrated life.

3. The use and value of suffering. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

The mission of Timothy

exhibits--

I. The missionary principle.

1. Trust in Christ.

2. A concern for the condition of others.

II. The kind of agency to be employed.

1. Earnest.

2. Unselfish.

3. Tried.

III. The course of action to be pursued.

1. Prompt.

2. Wise.

3. Believing.

4. Persevering. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Christian intercourse

I. Is sanctified by faith.

II. Sweetened by faith.

III. Replete with comfort. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The value of a true comforter

Happy is the man who has that in his soul which acts upon the dejected as April airs upon violet roots. Gifts from the hand are silver and gold, but the heart gives that which neither silver nor gold can buy. To be full of goodness, full of cheerfulness, full of sympathy, full of helpful hope, causes a man to carry blessings of which he is himself as unconscious as a lamp is of its own shining. Such a one moves on human life as stars move on dark seas to bewildered mariners; as the sun wheels, bringing all the seasons with him from the south. (H. W. Beecher.)


Verse 20-21

Philippians 2:20-21

For I have no man like minded

The care of a good pastor for his people

I.
Every good minister feels a tender concern for the good of his people. Every good minister is--

1. A good man; and therefore has a spirit of benevolence.

2. Has experienced a saving change, and is therefore anxious for the salvation of others.

3. Has grown in grace himself, and is consequently desirous to promote the spiritual good of others.

II. Why this is true of every good minister. Because--

1. He realizes that God has committed the flock into his hands, and, for a time, suspended their present and future good upon his care and fidelity.

2. Because his people have committed themselves to his pastoral watch and care.

3. Because he freely and solemnly engages to be their spiritual guide and watchman.

4. Because he knows that his interest is inseparably connected with theirs.

5. Because he views their eternal interests as inseparably connected with the eternal interests of Christ. (N. Emmons, D. D.)

Missionary agency

I. The men wanted. Those like minded with the apostle, men of earnest, spontaneous, self-denying zeal.

II. The scarcity of them.

1. Manifest.

2. Humiliating.

3. Admonitory.

III. The reason of it.

1. Selfish aims.

2. Want of love to Christ. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Concern for the spiritual wants of men

I. The situation of mankind. From a spiritual point of view this is such as to awaken the unaffected concern of good men.

II. The rarity of those who care for the spiritual state of others.

1. They were rare in Paul’s time.

2. They are rare now in proportion to the number who require their efforts, although in a less degree than formerly.

III. The principal causes of this unconcern.

1. An inordinate and criminal self-love.

2. The prevalence of unbelief.

3. Despondency. (E. Payson, D. D.)

Failures

In this and like passages we may trace signs of one of the apostle’s trials, which we hardly estimate at its real measure. His forced inactivity opened to him a new experience. He had to sit still and see what became of his work, with the sense that the world thought him a defeated man. Judged by our rule such a result would appear to be failure in life; and we should expect the attendant feelings to be those of depression and disappointment. We know that it was not so with St. Paul; but moods of feeling come and go even in the strongest, and we may see signs that he was not unmoved. There is an under tone of deep sadness in this Epistle, full as it is of firm confidence and rejoicing. He was at Rome. What had become of his great Epistle? Do we not read between the lines here that the reality was not all he had hoped for? There was energy, zeal, progress; Christ and His servant were spoken of in the household of Nero: Rome was hearing more than ever of the name of Christ. But there was another side to this. How was the solemn adjuration of Romans 12:1 realized. What fruit had come from his lessons of forbearance and cooperation? What a tale does it tell when there in the midst of that great active Church, there was no man like minded, etc. To a faith like St. Paul’s these adverse appearances, though they might bring for him as they passed a cry of distress, wore a very different aspect to what they did to the world. They were but parts of his Master’s use of him, and if the moment’s disloyalty or littleness stung him, the next moment brought back the unfailing joy.

I. The failure of life. The contrast between its opening and its close is what mankind has been accustomed to see from the beginning. Examples of it are familiar to us now.

1. In their coarser forms we have evidence of them in the old cries about the cheats and broken promises of life, in the discontent of the successful, and in the falls from goodness to evil.

2. All our lives have failure in them. Every action is an instance how we have come short.

3. We see the failures of life in the ordinary incidents of our experience; when the good die young; when the bright promise is cut short; when men miss their true calling or ignobly shrink from it; where a life of noble labour is wrecked as a ship sinks within sight of port.

4. But the failures which specially touch us are when a man has aimed high, and has shot wide of his mark or short of it; when care, love, and toil have been lavished on an idea or a cause, and the idea will not stand the test, or the cause dwindles into rivalry or strife; when the successful statesman sees his policy bringing forth fruit which he did not plant or look for; when the reformer sees his work taken out of his hand by disciples of meaner and narrower thoughts; still worse when he becomes their dupe and leaves the evils of the world greater than when he assailed them.

5. So it has been with those heroic institutions which have one after another tried some great effort for God’s glory. The flock of Francis, the royal-hearted bridegroom of the forgotten poverty of Christ sank down too often into idle mendicants; the flock of Dominic became the ministers of the inquisition; the little company who devoted themselves to the service of Jesus swelled into that mighty order which has furnished the bravest of missionaries, but also the most daring and ambitious of political intriguers.

6. What right have we to wonder when the greatest of God’s instruments, His Church, presents in its reality such a contrast to its ideal, when, in spite of all the wonders it has done, it has failed to do all that was expected of it. But what is it but the inevitable incident in the mingled greatness and littleness of human life.

II. Failure means humiliation to ourselves, but we know not what it means in the counsels of God. There is something wiser even than the world, and that is the counsel of Him who taketh the wise in their own craftiness. Paul in prison could not refute the world’s accusation of failure nor convince it of the meaning of what he had done, and of what was to follow it. His justification belonged to God his Master, and God kept it in His own hands for this world and the next.

III. How shall we think then about what we call failure.

1. We cannot take it in at all adequately without being led to think, not hopelessly, scornfully, or indifferently, but humbly of this human life in which it is so severe a part of our discipline. And these lowly thoughts are enforced by the contrast between what we do as moral agents, and what we achieve within the range where simple intelligence works, in mathematics, physics, mechanics, etc. Within that range men can predict without mistake, secure perfection in their skill, and move from one stupendous discovery to another; but all is changed when we pass into that other world whose ruling powers are love, duty, pain, and death. Compare what we achieve in mathematical and physical science with our success in the problems of government. Does not this read the Bible lesson of lowly thinking in the rebuke which it gives to ambition and pride.

2. Shall we then sit with folded hands, idle and hopeless because the chances of failure are so formidable, and like the servant in the parable bury our talent. There can be no failure worse than that. God our Master sends us forth not to make our mark but to work. God accomplishes His purposes in many ways; one of them we know, by the highest of all examples, the way that seems irretrievable disaster. The followers of the Cross have no right to look, in their own day, for the recognition of success; and, besides, we are bad judges of success and failure. Only in after years does the work draw itself up to its true grandeur; only then do we lose sight of partial failures and see it at last for what it is.

3. Don’t let us be afraid, in a good cause, of the chances of failure. “Heaven is for those who have failed on earth,” says the mocking proverb: and since Calvary no Christian need be ashamed to accept it. But even here, men have that within them which recognizes the heroic aspect of a noble failure. Even here it is better to have failed than not to have tried; to make the mistakes of the good than never to have struck one blow for Christ because so many have struck to little purpose. If the great and saintly life be incomplete, at least there is the great and saintly life. If the great effort has waxed feeble, at least there has been a new beacon of warning. The world would have missed its highest examples, if men had always waited tilt they could make a covenant with success. (Dean Church.)

The experience of isolation

I. It is a common complaint amongst us that we want sympathy.

1. We are lonely, we say; and if not actually solitary, are solitary in heart. The young are too impatient, too imperious in their demand for sympathy; the old are sometimes too tolerant, at least too fond, of isolation.

2. There is much that is fanciful and morbid in the complaint of the young that they have no one like minded. Why cannot that sister make one of her own household the sharer of her troubles and joys? No, that is too tame and commonplace a friendship: nothing but that which is self-made and self-sought has any charms for one who is as yet trying new sources of happiness instead of drinking thankfully of those which God has opened.

II. St. Paul gives no encouragement to this ungrateful pursuit.

1. True, he was a man to whom life without love would have been a daily torture and death. Nor was his a promiscuous love only. Within the universal brotherhood he had his special preferences and close attachments.

2. But his thirst for human love was not the sentimental, purposeless thing it is with many. His best affections were engaged and fixed unalterably. “To me to live is Christ.” What he sought in human friendship was not a supreme, nor even subordinate object of affection. He sought sympathy in his work for Christ: the loneliness he bewailed was a loneliness in his care for Christ’s people. How this says to us, Away with your little, selfish, earth-born murmurings! So long as your troubles are all selfish they cannot be borne too lonelily.

3. And if sympathy like this be denied you, learn like Paul to be content (Philippians 4:11; Romans 8:31, etc.). (Dean Vaughan.)

Care for souls

Some preachers think only of their sermon; others think only of themselves: the man who wins the soul is the man who aims at it. (Dean Hook.)

Natural care for others

The following account of a piece of heroism on the part of a young Englishwoman, by which she lost her life, has just reached us from the Cape. On September 23 last, Miss Burton, a governess in the family of Mr. Saul Solomon, resident at Capetown, was out with her little pupils, when the youngest, a girl of five, fell into a reservoir of water. Miss Burton endeavoured vainly to rescue her little charge by means of her parasol, and then jumped in after her. The elder children ran home to raise the alarm, but when help was obtained both the governess and child had disappeared, and it was necessary to use drags for the bodies. Great sympathy was expressed throughout the town for the bereaved parents, and also much admiration for the brave girl who lost her life in attempting to save that of the child entrusted to her.


Verse 21

Philippians 2:21

For all seek their own

Self-seeking

I.
Its signs.

II. Its causes.

III. Its evils.

IV. Its cure. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The evil of self-seeking

I. Things of a different sort spoken of.

1. Their own things--the things of this life; so called--

2. The things of Jesus Christ: things of His kingdom.

II. A sinful disposition with regard to these things. “Seek” indicates the temper of the soul in contrivances and desires, and the actings of the life in its endeavours.

1. Some sought their own things, and not at all the things of Christ.

2. Others sought their own more than His.

III. The subject of this disposition. “All” has special but not exclusive reference to ministers: for carnality in ministers usually spreads its contagion among the people; and the apostle afterwards speaks of both ministers and people as deeply infected with it when at the first summons of his second imprisonment they were so fearful of their secular interests that none dared publicly to own him (2 Timothy 4:16). (J. Guyse, D. D.)

Seeking our own things

I. When may we be said to seek our own things and not those of Christ.

1. When we seek them in opposition or disservice to the things of Christ (John 11:47-53; Acts 19:27-29).

2. When we seek our own to the neglect of Christ’s (Acts 18:17; Matthew 22:5; John 5:44).

3. When we seek our own more than Christ’s (Matthew 13:20-22). Some seek them only in such ways and at such times as will cost them little expense or trouble.

4. When we seek our own so as to hinder our seeking Christ’s. (a) We sometimes seek our own with such eagerness of spirit as puts us out of tune for spiritual things, and when we have been employed in spiritual work, a too hasty return to the world, and a too eager application to the things of it defaces promising impressions (Matthew 13:22).

5. When there is too much of self secretly twisting itself into what we do for Christ (Zechariah 7:5-6; Philippians 1:15-16).

6. When we put no respect to Christ on our own things (Colossians 3:23-24).

II. The great evil of this.

1. Consider the excellence of Christ’s things above all our own.

2. Consider how unsuitable this is to our character as Christians.

3. Consider the abundant care and grace with which Christ has sought our things--our everlasting peace and salvation (2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:6-8; Philippians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; 1 John 4:19).

4. Consider the danger of seeking our own in preference to Christ’s.

Giant “Self”

(Text in conjunction with 1 Corinthians 13:5; Philippians 2:4).

I. A common but serious fault. In one sense it is right to seek our own. To get on with your learning, to prosper in your business, etc., is right and dutiful: but when you are wholly taken up with self, that is seeking your own in a bad sense. Selfishness appears in--

1. Seeking our own pleasure and comfort to the neglect of that of others. You see it in taking the best seats, and trying to get the daintiest morsels at meal times; in the endeavour to get the best of everything for ourselves, and to leave what is inferior for others; in trying to secure a whole railway carriage to oneself, not caring how crowded the others may be. There is something of the kind in churches: and in families where children disregard each other or their parents, and grudging to others what we do not get ourselves.

2. Seeking our own honour and credit. What a danger there is of wishing ill to one’s rival in school, play, or business, so that we may reap the advantage. Under this head may be included the tendency to allow others to fall under suspicion where we were the wrong-doers.

3. Seeking to overbear others with our opinion. Most of us like to get our own way and carry our point. Even when convinced many will not give in.

4. Seeking to gratify our own temper irrespective of the pain it may give others. In holding out sulkily, or saying cutting things.

5. Seeking our own salvation all unconcerned about the salvation of others. How unlike the sailor saved from the wreck, whose first word when he returned to consciousness was, “Another man overboard!” as if that were uppermost with him, so that there might be two salvations to him.

II. A rare but beautiful grace. Love seeking not her own: beautiful, for it is being like Jesus; it is an element of heaven, but rare. It is the opposite of what has been described. Jesus pleased not Himself; nor did Abraham in his dispute with Lot.

III. A valuable counsel. “Look not on his own things,” etc.

1. In small matters. It is comparatively easy to be heroic on great occasions.

2. To the widest extent. (J. H. Wilson, D. D.)

The duty of unselfishness

If a vessel were on the eve of going down, what would you think if a few men were to get the boats launched, and before they were half filled, were to cut the ropes that bound them to the ship, and pull off? What would you think of such, congratulating themselves on their own escape, while leaving hundreds on board who were not aware of their danger, some of them, perhaps, sound asleep? I have heard of a man who had set fire to a mill finding he had cut off his own retreat, and appearing at a window several stories up, appealing for help. The ladder was raised in the hope of saving him, but the danger was extreme, and neither fireman nor policeman would venture. A boy was seen forcing his way to the foot of the ladder, saying, “Let me go! I’m his son, and he is my father.” And when the fireman would have pushed him back, the boy earnestly repeated, “He is my father, I tell thee, and he does not love God!” and the next minute saw him climbing aloft, making every effort to save his father, and perishing in the attempt. (J. H. Wilson, D. D.)

The beauty of unselfishness

A young woman was dying in a lodging in London, of a loathsome disease. Who was her attendant, tenderly nursing her day and night? You might have taken her for a sister. And yet the two had only been fellow servants in the same house, and when the one fell ill and had to go into lodgings, the other gave up her situation to go to nurse her friend, spending her own strength and all her hard-earned savings in supporting her fellow servant, and never leaving her till she died. A friend in Australia has sent me the following touching narrative:--“Some days since, a little girl, called Jane Buchanan, was carrying her brother, a child, in her arms, through the holes not far from Golden Point, on the White Flat, when the little fellow, from joyousness or some other cause, made a sudden spring from his sister’s arms, and plumped into an abandoned shaft about ten feet deep. Without a moment’s deliberation, our little heroine jumped in to save the life of her brother, and, what is equally gratifying, succeeded. A man who witnessed the accident hurried to the spot, found the girl up to her neck in water and holding the boy above her head, and was hailed with the girl’s imploring entreaty--‘Here, you save my little brother, and don’t mind me.’ Both were drawn up without delay, and both were uninjured save from the cold bath and wet clothes.” (J. H. Wilson, D. D.)

Disinterested service

San Quala, the native apostle of Central Burmah, was, in consequence of his abilities and influences, offered a lucrative appointment by the British Commissioner at Pegu. Without hesitation he declined the offer, though having no salary, and depending for food and clothing on the people to whom he preached. He replied, “I cannot do it. I will not have the money. I will not mix up God’s work with Government work. There are others to do this thing; employ them.” And being further pressed with the suggestion that he might continue his work as missionary, which would thus be rendered easier, he said, “No, sir. When I eat with the children of poverty I am content, I did not leave my dear wife and come up hither in search of silver or agreeable food. I came to this land that its poor benighted inhabitants might be saved.” In two and a half years this man had gathered thirty churches and baptized more than two thousand adult believers with his own hands. (J. B. J. Tinling, B. A.)

Disinterestedness

in return for his splendid services to China, Gordon would accept only the distinctions of the “Yellow Jacket” and the “Peacock’s Feather,” which correspond to our own orders of the Garter and the Bath. Of these rewards he wrote to his mother: “I do not care twopence about these things, but know that you and father like them.” The Chinese Government twice offered him a fortune. On the first occasion 10,000 taels were actually brought into his room, but he drove out the bearers of the treasure and would not even look at it. On the second occasion the sum was still larger, but this also he declined, and afterwards he wrote home:--“I do not want anything, either money or honours, from either the Chinese Government or our own. As for the honours, I do not value them at all. I know that I am doing a great deal of good, and, liking my profession, do not mind going on with my work. Do not think I am ill-tempered, but I do not care one jot about my promotion, or what people may say. I know I shall leave China as poor as I entered it, but with the knowledge that through my weak instrumentality upwards of eighty to one hundred thousand lives have been spared.”

Selfishness common

When they (the Athenians, after a battle with Xerxes) came to the Isthmus, and every officer took a bullet from the altar to inscribe upon it the names of those who had done the best service, every one put himself in the first place, and Themistocles in the second. (Plutarch.)

Beauty of unselfishness

Mrs. Appleton, of Boston, the daughter of Daniel Webster, was dying, after a long illness. The great lawyer, after pleading an important cause in the courtroom, on his way home stopped at the house of his daughter and went into her sick room. She said to him, “Father, why are you out today in this cold weather without an overcoat?” The great lawyer went into the next room, and was in a flooder tears, saying, “Dying herself, yet thinking only of me.” Oh! how much more beautiful is care for others than this everlasting taking care of ourselves! (T. De Witt Talmage.)


Verse 22

Philippians 2:22

But ye know the proof of him

Timothy

I.
His filial attachment to paul.

II. His cooperation in the service of the gospel.

III. His tried and faithful character. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Proof of character

I. Is required--

1. In every station.

2. Particularly in a minister.

II. Is given--

1. By faithful service.

2. Willing and childlike submission to superiors.

III. Brings honour.

1. It commands observation.

2. Wins confidence.

3. Ensures success. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

As a son with the father--

A lesson

I. To younger ministers to honour and reverence their ancients, and have them for an example.

II. To youths to have proper regard to their elders (1 Timothy 5:1-2; Leviticus 19:32).

III. To children to obey their parents.

IV. To spiritual children in regard to those who have begotten them in the faith of Christ Jesus (Phlippians 1:10; 1 Corinthians 4:15; Galatians 4:19). (H. Airay, D. D.)


Verse 23-24

Philippians 2:23-24

Him, therefore, I hope to send

The servant of God in affliction

I.
Cares for the Church.

II. Waits patiently the end.

III. Commits the future into the hands of the Lord.

IV. Anticipates deliverance in hope of further service. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

So soon as I shall see how it will go with me--

New year’s sermon

The first day of the new year is often a season of--

1. Peculiar transactions: balancing of accounts and commencing business.

2. Humanity and benevolence, family gatherings, gifts to the poor.

3. Thankfulness and joy for preservation of life, etc.

4. Seriousness and recollection.

5. Forecast. Let us confine ourselves to the latter view, and consider--

I. Our inability to determine our future circumstances. The endowments of the apostles were not absolute. In some cases Paul could foretell things to come, but in others he was left in ignorance, and could only reason from probabilities (Acts 20:22). And when we look into futurity, all that meets the eye is a dark unknown.

1. Even prophecy is wrapped up in so much obscurity that the fulfilment and the explanation generally arrive together. How often has this been exemplified in the calculations of not very wise men, who, in addition to being drawn off from more useful duties, have frequently survived their laborious schemes.

2. Your own history testifies that God has led you by a way which you knew not, and you hardly know it now. Had all your changes been foretold, they would have appeared incredible?

3. Nor have you any information that can enable you to foresee things for a single year--how it will go with your health, circumstances, relations.

II. What use we should make of this ignorance. Let us--

1. Learn our littleness, and that God is all in all. “Trust in the Lord with all thy heart.”

2. Beware of presumption. The future is God’s, not thine. Never say “I will” without “If the Lord will.”

3. Never despair. Seeing we know not how it will go with us, why should we look only for evil?

4. Draw off our attention from future events to present duties. We are to cast, not our work, but our care, upon the Lord. Duty and means belong to us, but events are entirely His.

5. Seek after a preparation for all events. We shall find this in Divine grace. This drew prayer from Jacob when he went forth with a staff; this preserved Daniel in the court of Darius and in the lion’s den; this enabled Paul to say, “I can do all things,” etc. And seeing that we have neither the ordering of the weather, nor the choice of food, happy is the man whose constitution enables him to bear any weather, and whose appetite enables him to relish any food.

III. What there is to encourage us under all this darkness and uncertainty. You say, “I see not how it will go with me,” and--

1. It is well you do not. You know as much as is good for you. It is with the mind as with the senses. A greater degree of hearing would incommode us. If our eyes could see things microscopically we should be afraid to move. Were we informed of the blessings of providence beforehand, we should cease to enjoy those we have; or of adversities, what dismay would ensue.

2. God does; and He is your friend, and far more concerned for your happiness than you can be.

3. You know that it shall be well with them that fear God.

4. Your ignorance only regards time; all in eternity is sure. (W. Jay.)

The Providence of God

We should--

I. Express future purposes with a resignation to God’s will and guidance (Psalms 21:1).

II. Observe that God’s providence extends to every particular thing--our incomings, outgoings, journeys, the very hairs of our head. This should teach us--

1. To set on our affairs with looking up to heaven for permission (James 4:13). Let us in all our affairs be holy, and not limit our holiness to coming to church.

2. That we ought Dot to set on anything wherein we cannot expect God’s guidance, and so consequently cannot trust in Him for a blessing.

3. To take nothing but that for which we can give God thanks. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)

Trust in the Lord

I. Implies--

1. Reliance on His providential care.

2. Because of His mercy and love.

II. Is necessary under all circumstances.

1. In joy and sorrow.

2. In all our plans and purposes.

3. In small matters as in great.

III. Is a source of unspeakable comfort.

1. It brings peace.

2. It assures that all will be well. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Trust in God

The child at school is not to lean his elbow on the table, and vex himself by thinking how he shall find raiment, how he shall get home, how the expense of his education is to be defrayed. He is a learner; he is to mind his book--the father requires no more of him--he will provide. The farmer is not to muse from day to day about the weather: “Perhaps it may not be a fine season--there may be a blight--and all my labour may be lost.” No: but he is to act; he goes forth bearing precious seed, commits it to the ground, and then pursues his other business--and what can his anxiety do afterwards? The soldier is to learn his exercise, to obey the word of command, to keep his arms bright, to be always at the post assigned him; but he is not to neglect all this, by busying himself in drawing plans of the campaign, and describing the duties of the general. (W. Jay.)


Verses 25-30

Philippians 2:25-30

I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus--

Epaphroditus

I. His titles.

1. The first of these shows his religion, and his holy union with the apostle and other believers. For the Christians in these early ages called each other “brother,” a name full of sweetness and friendliness derived from the custom of the Jewish Church, and suitable, inasmuch as they all have one Father, and are all begotten by one Spirit, uniting them in one family. They are nourished by the same food, consecrated by the same sacraments, and called to the same inheritance. Every time you see a Christian, whatever his condition, he is your brother. Paul did not disdain to acknowledge Epaphroditus.

2. “Companion in labour” relates to office, viz., the ministry; and how excellent the office which renders men companions of Paul and the apostles.

3. “Fellow soldier” expresses the part he had taken in his battles against the devil, the world, false brethren, etc., for the glory of his Master and the salvation of the flock. This title is peculiarly suitable to believers in Jesus Christ, who are called to suffer persecution, carry the cross, and “wrestle not with flesh and blood,” etc. (2 Timothy 2:3-5).

4. “Your messenger,” in relation to his special mission to the apostle.

5. “My minister,” in reference to the service rendered St. Paul: not the least of the glories of Epaphroditus.

II. His sickness. How strange it seems that so good and useful a man should be disabled, and that Paul, who could cure diseases, could not cure his! Learn, however--

1. That the Lord wishes that His servants should be subject to these afflictions and infirmities lest the excellence of their piety and graces should raise their vanity. Thus they are kept modest (2 Corinthians 12:6).

2. That the wonders of His power may shine gloriously when, with such weak instruments, He does not fail to perform His work (2 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 12:9; 2 Peter 1:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:6-7).

III. His cure.

1. God often allows His own to descend to the last degree of sorrow to relieve them afterwards from it with greater eclat: as we see in the cases of Hezekiah and David. This proceeding is very suitable.

2. This was not merely an exercise of God’s power, but of

IV. His return. This good servant of God, knowing that the news of his malady had much grieved his friends, touched with reciprocal love, desired, as soon as he was in health, to see them again that he might change their sorrow into joy. Which shall we most admire, the affection of the flock towards the shepherd or that of the shepherd towards the flock. It is one of the miracles of love which unites and blends what distance in vain separates.

V. His recommendation (Philippians 2:29). For the love of the Lord as His faithful servant whom He has given you, receive him. This is what Christ calls receiving one in His name (Mark 9:37). Learn--

1. Not to judge of men by the accidents which befall them. Innocence is not always prosperous, and piety often falls into great calamities.

2. That it is one thing to meet with affliction in the work of the Lord, and another to meet with it as an effect of our vice, avarice, or vanity.

3. That the closest and tenderest relations should subsist between pastor and flock.

4. That personal considerations should yield to the advantage of the Church. (J. Daille.)

Epaphroditus

I. His Christian status--a brother, etc.

II. His sickness.

1. Incurred in the service of Christ.

2. A source of solicitude to the apostle and the Church.

III. His recovery through Divine mercy.

IV. His return to Philippi.

1. Welcome.

2. Honourable. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The titles of Epaphroditus

I. Brother. A name significant--

1. Of office. As judges call one another brother, so does Paul Epaphroditus, because they discharged the same spiritual functions.

2. Of love and friendship. It shows the care which one Christian man should have of another.

3. Of equality. Hereby St. Paul shows

II. Fellow labourer. Unless ministers are this they are fellow loiterers. This must not be, because the Scriptures compares their office with the most laborious of occupations. If ministers are fellow labourers, then--

1. Their people must submit to be wrought upon. If they are builders you must be lively stones, and suffer yourselves to be squared and made fit for the building. If they are husbandmen you must be the ground, and such as may bring forth fruit to perfection, else all their labour upon you will be vain.

2. God suffers them not to be alone (Mark 6:7) so that they may render mutual aid. Thus He sent Jerome and Augustine, the one severe and powerful, the other meek and gentle; Luther hot and fiery, and Melanchthon soft and mild, each to temper the other.

III. Fellow soldier.

1. Every man’s life is a warfare.

2. In this warfare ministers are captains, who fight against the enemies within us, and lead us against the enemies without us. Then--

IV. Messenger of the Churches and minister to Paul’s wants.

1. The child of God is subject to wants.

2. They shall be satisfied. Rather than Elias shall perish for hunger the ravens shall feed him (1 Kings 17:4). If Dives will not have mercy on Lazarus, dogs shall. For Paul God provides an Epaphroditus or an Onesiphorus. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)

The relations of believers

I. Their fellowship.

1. Brethren.

2. Companions in toil and conflict.

II. Their consequent sympathy with each other.

1. They respect each other’s wishes.

2. Help each other’s joys.

3. Minister to each other’s wants. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Epaphroditus

is known to us only from the notices in this Epistle. He is, doubtless, to be distinguished from Epaphras (Colossians 1:7; Colossians 4:12; Phlippians 1:23); for though the names are the same the identity seems improbable.

1. The one appears to have been a native of Philippi (verse 25); the other of Colossae (Colossians 4:12). The longer form is always used of the Philippian delegate; the shorter, of the Colossian teacher. The name, in fact, is so extremely common in both forms that the coincidence affords no presumption of the identity of persons. The name is not specially characteristic of Macedonia, but occurs abundantly everywhere. On a Thessalonian inscription we meet with one Gaius Claudius Epaphroditus. This concurrence of names is suggestive. The combination which occurs once might well occur again; and it is possible, though in the absence of evidence hardly probable, that Gaius the Macedonia (Acts 19:29) is the same as Epaphroditus the Philippian. (Bishop Lightfoot.)

The attachment of fellow soldiers

An American officer who had fought in the late wars was seated in his pleasant parlour, musing on the turbulent scenes through which he had passed. Suddenly the doorbell rang. The officer rose to open, the newcomer, and a lame and weather beaten soldier stood before him. “Will you buy my books, sir?” he said. “I do not wish them,” was the quick reply, and the door was closed. The officer resumed his seat, but strange questionings arose in his mind. Was not that the face of one he knew? Had he not heard that voice before? Impressed as with the fear of some ill act, he quickly advanced to the door, and on opening it again, there stood the brave hero of many battles with the big tears starting from his eyes. He spoke again--“Don’t you know me, colonel?” The voice had a well remembered sound. And this time it fell not on dead ears nor a stony heart. The maimed soldier was recognized as one who had fought on many a field of daring and carnage by the officer’s side, and who was covered all over with glorious scars, the tokens of his patriotism and bravery. Instantly the door was flung wide open, and the veteran was welcomed into the mansion of the opulent officer, who, with tears in his eyes, fell on the hero’s neck and embraced him. The scene that followed the recognition was one never to be forgotten, and the colonel afterwards, relating the incident of the meeting, said he felt at that greeting a veneration for his old comrade almost amounting to a feeling of worship.


Verses 26-28

Philippians 2:26-28

For He longed after you all

The sickness of Epaphroditus

I.
The sickness and its lessons.

1. God’s children are subject to sickness as long as they live.

2. God suffers His children to come to extremities, yea, even to death itself, as Hezekiah, Job, Jonah, David, Daniel, the three children, the disciples, our Lord Himself, and by this means it comes to pass that when all ordinary means fail their trust is not placed on the means but on God’s own good will and power.

3. God suffers us to fall into extremities that He might try what is in us, and that He might exercise our graces.

II. His feeling. “Full of heaviness,” not for himself but for them. “He longed after you all.” A great triumph of grace when we can refrain from murmuring about ourselves, and feel only for the effect of our affliction on others.

III. God’s interposition.

1. Had mercy on him.

2. Had mercy on me.

IV. Paul’s conduct.

1. Although he regarded the restoration of his friend as a special mercy to himself, he was more anxious about the comfort of the Philippians than for his own.

2. This self-denial, however, augmented the apostle’s joy, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (R. Sibbes, D. D.)

Sickness

affords room for the display of--

I. Brotherly sympathy.

II. Divine mercy. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The sickness of Epaphroditus

I. He was sick.

1. It is a salutary thing for the healthy to remember the sick. What a change does even a slight sickness make in our thoughts and feelings! What an importance does it give to things at other times trivial, and what an insignificance to things at other times engrossing! The strong man is then in the grasp of a stronger. The worldly man finds then that there is something unseen as true as things that are seen; the busy man is reminded that there will be an end of work, and the frivolous that there will be an end of pleasure.

2. What a natural incongruity there is between health and sickness! How does the very presence of a person in robust health jar upon the sensitiveness of a frame diseased? How few there are whose visit to a chamber of sickness carries with it repose and soothing! What a tenderness should we cherish towards the peculiarities, frailities, irritabilities of sickness. What care there should be in the choice of times, the control of speech, the selection of topics, and in the regard to brevity! And yet in all these things, how should art conceal art? and a delicate consideration prompt everything.

3. God gives these gifts naturally to some: and some learn it in the school of Jesus.

II. Nigh unto death.

1. Happy are they who well use those seasons of passing indisposition, which interrupt from time to time a life of average vigour. They will find themselves the less surprised and overwhelmed by the arrival of that time when a mortal sickness shall darken the windows forever.

2. This sort of visit to the gates of the grave, and acquaintance with the preliminaries of dying, is an occurrence by no means infrequent. We are all familiar with records of perils by water, in which every stage of the process of dying has been travelled through. How remarkable are the details of those records. Words and acts long forgotten flash again upon the mind, and they have made the person able to tell from experience how it may be in the judgment, how conscience may arraign the sinner at the bar of God, and do the office of the undying worm and the unquenchable fire.

3. But sickness, too, as well as accident, may give something of the same experience. There may have been a long suspense between life and death. The physician may have destroyed hope. At last a turn has come; the sickness was close upon death, but it was not death, and all this mortal strife must be endured again. Has that person nothing to tell of those days of expected dissolution? Can he lose again the experience then acquired. We know that no such experience can, of itself, convert a soul (Luke 16:31); but it will, at least, tell how small and poor the world looked, how true God’s truth appeared; and well may such be asked whether they have duly cherished the impression made upon them in those days of suspense.

III. God had mercy on him. Is this the same apostle who wrote Philippians 1:23? Does he account it a mercy which withdraws a man from immediate fruition? We may draw from this an illustration of the naturalness of the Word of God. However bright the light the gospel throws upon the world beyond still life is a blessing (Ecclesiastes 11:7), and still death is an enemy. To speak of a recovery from sickness as a misfortune is as contradictory to the language of the Bible as it is to the voice of nature within.

1. No one will doubt this in the case of one whose salvation is less than secure. That such a man is not cut off in his sins, that a new opportunity is given him for amendment, is indeed a mercy.

2. But Epaphroditus was a Christian man. To him death would have been gain, and had providence so ordered it Paul would have bidden his Philippian friends to give thanks over him as one who slept in Jesus. If God wills thus it is well for the Christian; if God wills the opposite it is well still. If he lives He can still work and gather in more souls for Christ. (Dean Vaughan.)

Recovery from sickness

I. The sickness which you have endured.

1. You have, perhaps, been suddenly smitten after a long and uninterrupted course of health.

2. Or your sickness has been preceded by protracted feebleness and delicacy.

3. But whichever way it has come the affliction has secluded you, discontinued your active pursuits, oppressed you with pain, and, it may be, destroyed all hope for the time of recovery.

4. How solemn and affecting was your condition when the crisis arrived. Death, “the king of terrors,” had knocked and was standing in your presence.

5. What were your thoughts as you thus trembled on the brink of eternity? Did you see heaven: or was there nothing before you but “a fearful looking for of judgment.”

II. The recovery which the God of mercy permitted you to enjoy.

1. The source of this mercy is Divine. No doubt all the means which skill and kindness could suggest had been employed in the case of Epaphroditus, but when his recovery was effected the apostle ascribed it entirely to the hand of God. And so must you. He gave the skill which selected the suitable means and gave His blessing so that the means were rendered effectual. Have you thanked Him for His mercy.

2. Your recovery manifests the power of Divine mercy. Next to resurrection, recovery is the most astonishing and merciful display of Divine powers. Your recovery manifests the sovereignty of this mercy. Others have died. Had you died none could have charged God with injustice or unkindness. He was under no obligation to heal you.

4. The value and importance of this mercy. A state of sickness, however painful to the flesh, has often proved exceedingly profitable to the spirit, and recovery has given you a fresh opportunity for salvation and usefulness. Some are hardened by the dispensation, but in your case it is to be hoped it has been sanctified and blessed.

III. The mercy which your recovery has conferred on others as well as on yourselves. There are no earthly sorrows more deep or distressing than those which death occasions to the survivors, In the case of Christians the sorrow is alleviated by hope, but in the case of unbelievers it is burdened by despair. Whatever may have been your ease, every child, brother, sister, relative, friend, has echoed on your recovery the joyful exclamation, “and on me also.” In restoring your friend God has mercifully--

1. Answered your prayers.

2. Regarded your afflictions.

3. Regarded your souls by sparing a fellow labourer. (J. Alexander, D. D.)

Sympathy

The apostle--

I. Shares in the sorrow of the Philippians.

II. Hastes to wipe away their tears.

III. Rejoices in their joy. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Why God’s servants are afflicted

As the skill of a pilot is more clearly seen in the guidance of a bad vessel among banks and breakers, than if he piloted some good ship, well equipped in a safe sea without danger; so is it evident that the power and wisdom of God are more clearly and wonderfully shown, when He preserves and guides to the completion of His plans His poor believers, weak and subject as they are to the sufferings and miseries of other men, than if, stripping them of their vileness, and clothing them from thence with an immortal nature, incapable of suffering, He employed them thus fitted in His work. Besides, He acts thus for the praise of believers themselves, afflictions justifying their piety, and making its lustre appear as well as its firmness in the eyes of men and angels. It remains subject to calumny whilst in prosperity. Satan desires to make it pass for hypocrisy, and for a mercenary service, as if they only loved God because He spared them. It is what he formerly said of Job, that he only feared the Lord because He had everywhere encompassed him with a hedge of providence and blessing, and that he would doubtless change his piety into blasphemy if God were to strike him. To confound this malice, the Lord gave up to him the property and health of His servant, and caused his faith and his love to be seen by his constancy in the midst of these severe trials. Sickness, poverty, persecution, and other sufferings, are as it were the crucible of God. He makes believers pass through this fire, that their piety being preserved, and that coming out of it more pure and brilliant, every one may be forced to acknowledge their value; and this is what we are taught by the apostle St. Peter, saying that the trial of our faith in the midst of temptations is much more precious than gold which perishes, and though it be tried with fire shall turn “to praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” (J. Daille.)

Providential care

All the events of life are precious to one that has this simple connection with Christ of faith and love. No wind can blow wrong, no event be mistimed, no result disastrous. If God but cares for our inward and eternal life, if by all the experiences of this life, He is reducing it and preparing for its disclosure, nothing can befall us but prosperity. Every sorrow shall be but the setting of some luminous jewel of joy. Our very mourning shall be but the enamel around the diamond; our very hardships but the metallic rim that holds the opal, glancing with strange interior fires. (H. W. Beecher.)

Timely providences

We find multitude of Providences so timed to a minute, that, had they fallen out ever so little sooner or later, they had signified but little in comparison of what they now do. Certainly, it cannot be casualty, but counsel, that so exactly nicks the opportunity. Contingencies keep no rules. How remarkable was the relief of Rochelle, by a shoal of fish that came into the harbour when they were ready to perish with hunger, such as they never observed either before or after that time. Mr. Dodd could not go to bed one night, but feels a strong impulse to visit (though unseasonably) a neighbouring gentleman, and just as he came he meets him at his door, with a halter in his pocket, just going to hang himself. Dr. Tare and his wife, in the Irish rebellion, flying through the woods with a sucking child, which was just ready to expire, the mother, going to rest it upon a rock, puts her hand upon a bottle of warm milk, by which it was preserved. A good woman, from whose mouth I received it, being driven to a great extremity, all supplies failing, was exceedingly plunged into unbelieving doubts and fears, not seeing whence supplies should come; when lo! in the nick of time, turning some things in a chest, she unexpectedly lights upon a piece of gold, which supplied her present wants, till God opened another door of supply. If these things fall out casually, how is it that they observe the very juncture of time so exactly? This is become proverbial in Scripture. “In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen” (Genesis 22:14). (J. Flavel.)

Receive Him therefore in the Lord with all gladness--

The succour of the saints is

I. A work of Christ.

1. Enjoined.

2. Exemplified.

3. Commended by Him.

II. A work of sacrifice. Requiring--

1. The renunciation of ease and comfort.

2. Often of health and life.

III. A work of honour.

1. Those who undertake it are justly esteemed.

2. Their preservation is a source of joy to the Church. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The Christian’s duty

I. To do all things “in the Lord.”

1. Marry.

2. Love.

3. Salute.

4. Receive ministers.

5. Live.

6. Die.

II. The reason for this. A Christian in all looks to the Lord, and depends upon Him. Carnal men do contrarily. They marry, love, etc., carnally. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)

The Christian’s duty to his ministers

I. The duty.

1. To receive them joyfully--whatever their ministrations may be, rebuke or encouragement, admonition or comfort. It is for your good; rebel not against them.

2. To hold such in reputation, personally and officially.

II. The motives.

1. It is an evidence that we are the children of God, and have passed from death to life, if we love and reverence the brethren.

2. Those whom God esteems we ought to make the most account of.

3. Consider their gifts and graces.

4. Remember the good you reap by them. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)

The work of Christ

I. Is essentially benevolent in its objects.

1. To feed the hungry.

2. Clothe the naked.

3. Visit the sick and the prisoner.

II. Deserves every sacrifice.

1. Of time.

2. Money.

3. Life. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Returning labourers to be welcomed with joy

You remember the enthusiastic welcome which was accorded among us to the brave young American, Stanley, who had encountered innumerable perils to carry aid to the illustrious missionary pioneer of Central Africa, David Livingstone. We felt as if in helping the noble old man, whom all of us had come to think of as a personal friend, he had helped ourselves. We know what pleasure and sense of honour would be felt if Florence Nightingale presented herself under our roof, or under the roof of any true-hearted countryman of those wounded soldiers of the Crimea, for whom she cared so wisely and lovingly, and who kissed her very shadow on the wall, as she passed through the wards of the hospital. Somewhat like this would be the position of Epaphroditus on his return to Philippi. The knowledge of his heroism and self-devotion in the cause of the Saviour they loved, and this in discharging the duties of a ministry for the relief and comfort of their dear friend and spiritual father the apostle, could not but lead them to feel it a peculiar privilege and honour to be permitted to welcome him once more among them. (R. Johnstone, LL. B.)

The risk of Christian work

The word “not regarding” means Epaphroditus had risked his life as the gambler does his stake. He had played with it as in a game of chance. The same word in later days, and possibly with a direct reference to this passage, has given a name to an inferior, and though sometimes a disorderly, yet a self-forgetful class of church officers, who from Constantine’s time onwards were set apart as attendants on the sick and dying. They were men who hazarded their lives in times of plague and contagious sickness, like the παράβολοι, or bestiarii, who exposed themselves to the risk of death in conflict with the wild beasts of the amphitheatre. It was in some such way as this that Epaphroditus staked his life in faithfully representing the Philippian Church in carrying out the mission with which he had been entrusted. (J. Hutchinson, D. D.)

Life preferred to service

In the early part of the American campaign some of the officers displayed great lack of bravery. This fact soon became known amongst the men, and caused great contempt. Once in an engagement a soldier said to his comrade, “Why don’t you get behind a tree?” The reply came instantly, “Oh! there’s not enough of them for the officers.” (H. O. Mackay.)

Life not regarded

Father Peto and Elstowe, two men who had dared to speak out bravely as to Henry the Eighth’s misdeeds, were summoned before the king’s council to receive a reprimand. Lord Essex told them they deserved to be sewn into a sack and thrown into the Thames. “Threaten such things to rich and dainty folk, who have their hope in this world,” answered Elstowe, gallantly, “we fear them not; with thanks to God, we know the way to heaven to be as ready by water as by land.” Men of such metal might be broken, but they could not be beat. The two offenders were hopelessly unrepentant and impracticable, and it was found necessary to banish them. (H. O. Mackay.)
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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Philippians 2:4". The Biblical Illustrator. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/philippians-2.html. 1905-1909. New York.

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